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Statements Special Procedures

Unsound management of chemicals and wastes fuelling global toxic emergency: UN experts

20 September 2023


GENEVA (20 September 2023) – The serious adverse impacts of the unsound management of chemicals and wastes are fuelling an unprecedented global toxic emergency, UN experts* said today. On the occasion of the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM-5), a group of UN experts issued the following statement:

“ICCM-5 is expected to be a watershed moment for international cooperation on chemicals and wastes. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver a robust outcome to confront the global toxic tide. We, the UN human rights experts, call on ICCM-5 to be guided by human rights principles in the design of the post-2020 global policy framework on the sound management of chemicals and wastes.

The threats of infertility, deadly illnesses, neurological and other disabilities resulting from exposure to hazardous chemicals and wastes, reveal the widespread and systematic denial of basic human rights for countless persons and groups in vulnerable situations, among them workers, children, women, Indigenous peoples, people living in poverty, people of African descent, internally displaced persons, migrants, and minorities.

Humanity cannot afford to further aggravate the toxification of the planet.

The 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development set out the global 2020 goal on the sound management of chemicals. Yet, the international community has failed to achieve this objective. The need for the sound management of hazardous substances and waste remains ever pressing.

Guided by the global 2020 goal, ICCM-1 adopted the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) in 2006. SAICM is unique in its set-up as a multi-sectoral global policy framework and has delivered notable achievements. Despite achievements, much more needs to be done to tackle and reverse the toxification of the planet.

The post-2020 framework must be grounded in human rights. This includes articulating a vision in a high-level declaration that reflects human rights principles. In that regard, the post-2020 framework should explicitly incorporate the recently recognised right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.

Also, the design of the post-2020 framework should reflect a human rights-based approach. Key elements include: ensuring non-discrimination; preventing exposure to hazardous substances and wastes and not just minimising adverse effects; undertaking human rights due diligence; promoting meaningful participation in decision-making processes on toxics; securing access to information on chemicals and wastes, including in consumer products; ensuring access to effective remedies; and implementing special measures to protect those most vulnerable in society and their livelihoods.

For ICCM-5 to deliver the ambition and strength needed to overcome the global toxic emergency facing humanity, it needs to explicitly embrace a human rights-based approach.”


See full statement here. *The experts: Marcos A. Orellana, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes; Ashwini. K.P.Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Alexandra XanthakiSpecial Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights;
Livingstone SewanyanaIndependent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international orderFelipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Paula Gaviria Betancur, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Ian Fry,Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change; Vitit MuntarbhornSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia; Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Gerard Quinn, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Surya Deva, Special Rapporteur on the right to development;Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Dorothy Estrada-Tanck (Chair), Elizabeth Broderick, Ivana Radačić, Meskerem Geset Techane and Melissa Upreti, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; David R. Boyd,Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment; Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association;Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; José Francisco Calí Tzay,Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Barbara G Reynolds (Chair), Catherine S. Namakula, Dominique Day, Bina D’Costa, Miriam Ekiudoko,Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; Damilola Olawuyi (Chair), Robert McCorquodale (Vice-Chairperson), Fernanda Hopenhaym, Elżbieta Karska and Pichamon Yeophantong, Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

The experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests please contact: Noura Humoud A. AlZaid ([email protected])

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected]).

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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