Closing the Gap to Achieve SAICM’s 2020 Goals


Panelists at the Helsinki Chemicals Forum 2018 discussed the challenges faced by developing countries in achieving SAICM’s 2020 goals. Image copyright Messukeskus Helsinki

SAICM, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, was first adopted in 2006 and is a policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world. Its overall objective is the achievement of the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that by the year 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health.

A panel session at last week’s Helsinki Chemicals Forum (HCF 2018) examined what strategic and systematic approaches could be put in place to support developing countries as they work to achieve the goals of SAICM and to lessen the risk of a growing gap between developed and developing countries.

Panelist Li Cangmin, who works at the Solid Waste and Chemicals Management Center in China’s Ministry of the Environmental Protection, outlined steps being taken by China’s government at the national level. These steps include risk assessments, toxicity testing and monitoring, and R&D into safe alternatives. In the area of chemical environmental management, China is comparing itself with developed countries and learning as much from them as possible.

Thierry Decoud, with Argentina’s Secretariat of Environmental Control and Monitoring in the Ministry of Environmental and Sustainable Development, said that his country has developed a strong regulatory framework over the past 30 years for handling hazardous waste. However, while specific regulations have been developed for specific hazardous chemicals, so far the country has not yet developed or implemented any umbrella regulations for chemicals management. Following its success with waste management regulations, the government is now prioritizing the development of chemicals management regulations.

Johanna Lissinger Peitz, senior advisor and chief negotiator on climate change with Sweden’s government, said her country has a long history of helping other countries to build national legislation for sound management of chemicals and waste. Such help can include building core competencies and training programs, all depending on what the structure of the country’s chemical industry looks like. In general, she added, needs include establishing legislation with clear responsibility to industry, establishment of enforcement mechanisms, and national systems to ensure costs are included in government budgets. Most of all, she said, if we are serious about the challenges of chemicals and waste, developing countries need to prioritize this, otherwise it is very difficult to help them.

A final perspective was provided by David Williamson, associate director with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). His bank focuses on project financing in the private sector, primarily in the Middle East. It is also very involved in environmental infrastructure in water, wastewater and solid waste management. Barriers he says his bank sees include the initiation of policy, then sustaining it over the long term. He added that you need an engaged partner on the government side, otherwise you won’t have an institution to put in place. Almost as important is getting private industry involved, because they are the ones who understand the technical issues and solutions.

Posted by Leslie Burt, Chemical Matters

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