Alliances between international organizations:
Chemicals & wastes

Inter-agency collaboration has helped more than 100 countries to take steps on the road to integrated chemicals management.

Achim Halpaap

Achim Halpaap, UNITAR

Achim Halpaap is Principal Co-ordinator of UNITAR's Programs in Chemicals, Waste, and Environmental Governance (CWG). UNITAR is an autonomous institution of the United Nations, with its headquarters located in Geneva, conducting and supporting research, training and capacity building activities around the world.


Capacity-building for chemicals management

In 2002 the international community set 2020 as its target for achieving sound chemicals management. Several Geneva-based organizations are helping countries to develop a national platform to facilitate integrated management of chemicals.

Over the past two decades, the importance of managing the risks of dangerous chemicals with the aim of protecting human health and the environment has received growing attention, both at the international level and in countries around the world. International agreements, such as the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, or the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), are landmark international instruments aimed at reaching the goal set by the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to achieve sound chemicals management by 2020. At the national level, chemicals management presents a number of challenges. According to the recently adopted Strategic Approach for International Chemicals Management (SAICM), strengthening collaboration of ministries and stakeholders within a coherent and integrated national programme is an important aspect of reaching the 2020 goal.

About 100 National Chemicals Management Profiles have been prepared and many countries are taking steps to develop an Integrated National Programme for Sound Chemicals Management.

Geneva-based international organizations, working with partners around the world, have played an important role in assisting developing countries and countries in economic transition in taking a systematic and coordinated approach toward chemicals management capacity-building at the national level. Catalyzed by decisions from the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety in the mid-90s, collaboration between UNITAR, UNEP, WHO and ILO provided the foundation for the development of guidance material and an international programme to support countries in drawing up a National Chemicals Management Profile, identifying national priorities, and developing an Integrated National Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals.

Collaboration at the international level has been extended to include all Participating Organizations of the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC) as well as UNDP and the World Bank, with UNITAR serving as an executing agency. As of 2007, about 100 countries have received support to prepare a National Profile, some 30 countries have identified national priorities, and around 15 countries have initiated an Integrated National Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals. The UNITAR Programme has received core support by the Government of Switzerland and the European Commission. Methodologies and capacity-building strategies are currently being adapted to take into account needs under the SAICM and the SAICM Quick Start Programme.

The Programme catalysed action and resulted in a number of spin-off initiatives involving collaboration of UNITAR and Geneva-based organizations. For example, the UNITAR/ILO GHS Capacity Building Programme has reached out since 2003 to more than 50 countries to develop capacities for classifying and labelling dangerous chemicals. Other examples of collaboration include the recently initiated cooperation of UNITAR and UNEP for mercury inventory development and risk management decision-making and the UNITAR/UNECE initiative to strengthen capacities for the management of radioactive scrap metal.

Capacity-building methodologies developed by UNITAR and its partners have also contributed to initiatives of Geneva-based organizations concerned with general matters of environmental management. For example, since 2004, UNITAR has closely collaborated with the Secretariat of the UNECE Aarhus Convention to adapt the National Profile methodology to the needs of the Aarhus Convention which is concerned with access to information, public participation, and access to justice in environmental matters. Pilot projects have been successfully completed and the initiative is being extended to other regions within the framework of implementing Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), which states: «Each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities.»