New York — Stepping up international cooperation to reduce the risk of exposure to toxic and hazardous chemicals for the world's poorest communities is the focus of an inter-agency meeting which begins in New York today.
Populations in developing countries routinely face the highest risk of exposure to hazardous substances due to their occupations, lifestyles and lack of knowledge of safe handling practices, often exacerbated by weak national regulatory, health and education systems.
The 38th meeting of the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC) will examine vital next steps following the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June where countries reaffirmed the 2020 target of achieving the sound management of chemicals and hazardous wastes throughout their life cycle.
Hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the two-day meeting will bring together experts from seven UN agencies, the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to prioritise international action and coordination on chemicals management.
"Following the Rio+20 conference, it's an important task for the global community to support inclusive growth and green jobs by minimizing the adverse effects of hazardous chemicals and wastes on human health and the environment," the Director of UNDP's Environment and Energy Group, Dr Veerle Vandeweerd, said.
"UNDP views the sound management of chemicals and associated pollution as an important dimension of poverty eradication and we are committed to enhancing cooperation to integrate rigorous chemicals management schemes into national development policies and plans," Dr Vandeweerd said.
On the agenda at the two-day meeting are emerging issues related to the safe management of chemicals, for example concerning chemicals in products, including computers and other electronic waste (e-waste).
The IOMC meeting will also seek agreement on coordinated steps to implement decisions of the third session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM3), held in Nairobi in September, including pilot-testing a toolbox to enable countries to identify the most relevant and efficient ways to address national problems in chemicals management.
The Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions on chemicals, Jim Willis, and the Coordinator of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), Leonor Alvarado, will be among the participants.
UNDP is one of nine IOMC participating organizations alongside the World Health Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, International Labour Organization, UN Environment Programme, UN Industrial Development Organization, UN Institute for Training and Research, the World Bank and the OECD.
Actions to support mainstreaming the sound management of chemicals into national development planning will build on the results of a UNDP-UNEP partnership supporting pilot projects in 14 countries including Belarus, Cambodia and Liberia.
Established in 1995, the IOMC is seen as the pre-eminent mechanism for initiating and coordinating international action to achieve the sound management of chemicals.