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A Toxics-Free Future


At-A-Glance Views

Youth and Chemicals At-A-Glance

The world today is home to the largest generation of young people in its history, there are now over 1.8 billion youth between the ages of 10 to 24. Enhancing the role young people play and providing opportunities for their active engagement in protecting health and the environment and promoting economic and social development will be essential for a sustainable, democratic future. Young people push qualitative change in ways of working, innovation and institutional reforms, including better governance, combating corruption, and building a healthier social and physical environment.

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Chemical Safety (SAICM)

The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) was mandated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and endorsed by the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 and the New York World Summit in September 2005. It was initiated by a multi-stakeholder Preparatory Committee, co-convened by UNEP, the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS) and the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC). SAICM was adopted at the International Conference on Chemicals Management in Dubai in 2006.

SAICM provides an overarching strategy to address problems of chemicals management and safety, nationally and globally. The initial goal was to achieve sound chemical management by 2020, as committed to by governments in Johannesburg in 2002. As this goal has not been achieved, SAICM is now working on a "Beyond 2020" process to assess priorities going forward.

Although not legally binding, the adoption of SAICM by a multitude of governments around the world sets the stage for an international movement to reform chemicals policies and practices in every country. SAICM also provides an opportunity to help build and strengthen a global civil society movement aimed at preventing further harm to human health and to ecosystems caused by exposure to chemicals and other toxic substances.

SAICM comprises three core texts:

1. The Dubai Declaration, which expresses the commitment to SAICM by Ministers, heads of delegation and representatives of civil society and the private sector. The Dubai Declaration reaffirms high-level global agreement that concerted action is necessary to protect public health and the environment from harm caused by exposure to man-made chemicals throughout their life-cycle. In its opening paragraph, the Dubai Declaration asserts a new global consensus that the sound management of chemicals is essential to achieving sustainable development. The Dubai Declaration identifies problems such as: the lack of capacity for managing chemicals in developing countries and countries with economies in transition; dependency on pesticides in agriculture; exposure of workers to harmful chemicals; and concerns about the long-term effects of chemicals on both human health and the environment.

2. The Overarching Policy Strategy, which sets out the scope of SAICM, the needs it addresses and objectives for risk reduction, knowledge and information, governance, capacity-building and technical cooperation and illegal international traffic, as well as underlying principles and financial and institutional arrangements. The SAICM Overarching Policy Strategy (OPS) acknowledges the inadequacies in the existing international policy framework for chemicals, that many countries lack the capacity to assure that chemicals are soundly managed, and that adequate information is lacking and/or inaccessible on many chemicals in use. The 1st International Conference on Chemicals Management adopted the Overarching Policy Strategy which, together with the Dubai Declaration, constitutes a firm commitment to SAICM and its implementation.

3. A Global Plan of Action, which sets out proposed "work areas and activities" for implementation of the Strategic Approach. The SAICM Global Plan of Action (GPA) was approved by a consensus for use and further development as a working tool and guidance document for sound chemicals management and for SAICM implementation.

Preventing Risk

SAICM explicitly recognises that risk reduction measures need to be improved to prevent the adverse effects of chemicals on the health of children, pregnant women, fertile populations, the elderly, the poor, workers and other vulnerable groups and susceptible environments. Work to develop safer alternatives should be accelerated, including the development of alternatives to chemicals of concern and affordable sustainable technologies.

SAICM Chemicals of Concern

Among its key risk reduction objectives, the SAICM calls for phasing-out, by the year 2020, chemicals that pose unreasonable and otherwise unmanageable risks, and also chemical uses that pose such risks. Groups of chemicals are identified that should be prioritised for assessment and include: persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances (PBTs); very persistent and very bioaccumulative substances; chemicals that are carcinogens or mutagens or that adversely affect the reproductive, endocrine, immune or nervous systems; persistent organic pollutants (POPs), mercury and other chemicals of global concern; chemicals produced or used in high volumes; those subject to widespread dispersive uses; and other chemicals of concern at the national level.

Need for Information

A priority focus of SAICM is to ensure that knowledge and information on chemicals and chemicals management are sufficient to enable chemicals to be adequately assessed and managed safely throughout their life cycle. This information (including, where appropriate, information on chemicals in products) should be: available to all stakeholders, adequate and appropriate for their needs, accessible, and user friendly. SAICM lists appropriate types of information as including the effects of chemicals on human health and the environment, their intrinsic properties, their potential uses, information on protective measures to take, and information on their regulation.

In the context of this objective, the SAICM OPS states that information on chemicals relating to the health and safety of humans and the environment should not be regarded as confidential.

For more information, see the SAICM website, as well as the "Conferences" links on the right-hand side of this page, which take you to information about IPEN participation in SAICM-related meetings.