Published by the
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
Vol. 15 No. 85
Wednesday, 5 November 2003
IFCS IV HIGHLIGHTS:
TUESDAY, 4 NOVEMBER 2003
Participants convened in Plenary in the morning to
consider: occupational safety and health; children and chemical
safety; the globally harmonized system (GHS) for the classification
and labeling of chemicals; and the President’s Progress Report.
Delegates also heard regional inputs on the strategic approach to
international chemicals management (SAICM) in the morning, and
discussed the issue further in the afternoon Plenary. Ad hoc
Working Groups on hazard data generation, acutely toxic pesticides,
and children and chemical safety met in the evening, while informal
groups convened to consider occupational safety and health, and the
OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH: Patabendi
Abeytunga (Canada) presented the decision document on
Occupational Safety and Health Issues and the Work of IFCS (IFCS/
FORUM-IV/08w). Speaking for the AFRICAN GROUP, Ghana noted the
fragmentation of chemical safety legislation in many countries and
the lack of legislation in some sectors, notably agriculture.
Commenting on the decision document, she proposed that poison
centers be included, worker compensation considered, and the
vulnerability of women emphasized. The WESTERN EUROPE AND OTHERS
GROUP (WEOG) and CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE Group (CEE) supported
the paper, with CEE noting the significance of occupational exposure
in small and medium-sized enterprises and the need to consider
illegal immigrants. ASIA AND THE PACIFIC requested reference to the
ILO’s minimum employment age. The GROUP OF LATIN AMERICAN AND THE
CARIBBEAN (GRULAC) recommended a greater emphasis on workers’ right
to know. A small informal group met in the afternoon to further
consider this agenda item.
CHILDREN AND CHEMICAL SAFETY: Jenny Pronczuk,
WHO, presented a decision document on Protecting Children from
Harmful Chemical Exposures (14w), which received support from
many delegations. Issues addressed during the ensuing discussion
included the need for: further research on the effects of chemical
exposure to pregnant women and fetuses; proper labeling of consumer
and pharmaceutical products; biological monitoring using affordable
equipment; governments to consider children’s exposure when setting
environmental and health criteria and legal limits; toxicity
testing; and exposure monitoring. Delegates also identified the need
to: train health professionals to diagnose and report environmental
illnesses; address the underlying causes of children’s
vulnerability; and educate parents on the safe use of household
chemicals. Additional issues raised by delegates included: the risks
posed by endocrine disruptors and tobacco; chronic poisoning from
lead and arsenic; and the role of poison control centers in
information dissemination. Several delegates recommended that the
WHO assist three countries from each region, rather than one, in the
preparation of their assessments on children’s health and chemical
GHS ACTION PLAN: Kim Headrick (Canada) presented
the draft GHS Action Plan, emphasizing language reflecting
the need to minimize the transition period. She outlined the Plan’s
recommendations, highlighting, inter alia, targets for
capacity building activities, calls for financial and technical
resources, and the development of a roster of GHS experts.
CEE and ASIA AND THE PACIFIC supported the
recommendations. WEOG and GRULAC expressed concern regarding the
short transition period, and the AFRICAN GROUP proposed that UNITAR
develop and make available training tools for developing countries
and economies in transition. He stressed the need for stronger
commitment by developed countries to develop the system, and for
regional and subregional projects involving the New Partnership for
Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO expressed concern regarding how
the GHS would address the issue of confidentiality. THAILAND called
for more regional workshops and pilot projects. While agreeing that
the GHS is important for facilitating chemical safety, ARGENTINA
reiterated the problem of illegal trafficking and called for
technical and financial support to address this matter. An informal
group convened in the afternoon to finalize the draft Action Plan.
PRESIDENT’S PROGRESS REPORT: Many delegates
congratulated President Cavalcanti on his report. SWITZERLAND and
the CZECH REPUBLIC raised concerns that recommendations on the SAICM
presented in the Report would predetermine discussions at the
upcoming meeting of the SAICM Preparatory Committee (PrepCom), to
which President Cavalcanti suggested that delegates focus on the
Forum IV SAICM Thought Starter (13w).
SAICM: In the morning, Regional Groups presented
their input on the SAICM. WEOG said the SAICM Thought
Starter on Identifying Gaps in the Bahia Declaration and the
Priorities for Action Beyond 2000 (13w) gave little recognition
to the benefits of chemicals, and recommended discussing governance
and priority setting at the SAICM PrepCom. CEE recommended that the
SAICM address the life-cycle of chemicals, preferably through a
legally-binding instrument, and foster information exchange on the
risks of chemicals throughout their life cycle.
GRULAC highlighted the need for: synergies among
chemical conventions; application of the precautionary principle;
and measures to address illegal trafficking of chemical products.
She recommended addressing illegal trafficking, and urged increased
technical and financial assistance, and development of national
profiles and priorities.
The AFRICAN GROUP called for: broadening the scope
of technology transfer and financial assistance; developing clean
technologies; corporate responsibility; and applying the
precautionary and polluter pays principles. He also recommended a
legal framework to address illegal trafficking.
ASIA AND THE PACIFIC recommended that priorities for
actions address the need to prevent the migration of polluting
industries to developing countries, and recommended preventive
measures and regulatory mechanisms.
In the afternoon, Chair Sanders (US) invited
participants to respond to questions posed in the thought starter on
identifying gaps in the Bahia Declaration, the Priorities
for Action Beyond 2000 and their implementation.
Regarding gaps in the Bahia Declaration and
the Priorities for Action Beyond 2000, SWEDEN, supported by
many, urged the integration of chemicals management into poverty
reduction and development objectives. She highlighted the need to
consider: concrete timetables to reach the WSSD 2020 target;
carcinogens, heavy metals, endocrine disruptors and other chemicals;
and safer alternatives. Highlighting the life-cycle approach, IPEN
stressed the need to address wastes. SENEGAL urged: promoting
training and research in universities; strengthening capacity to
respond to chemical emergencies; and, supported by BELGIUM,
considering chemicals and wastes as a single issue, according to the
life-cycle approach. MEXICO, KENYA and others called for
consideration of synergies between chemicals-related conventions.
The CZECH REPUBLIC advocated the development of
mechanisms to phase out the most dangerous chemicals. NORWAY,
supported by SWITZERLAND, called for deliberations on:
multi-stakeholder involvement; the precautionary approach; chemical
substitution; the life-cycle approach; and industry’s responsibility
in chemical safety. THAILAND suggested addressing harmonization of
classification and labeling, prevention of illegal traffic, and
technical and financial assistance. IRAN proposed addressing the
migration of polluting industries to the developing world and
chemical dangers resulting from war, and creating a global mechanism
for responding to chemical disasters. ARGENTINA noted that the SAICM
should build on existing mechanisms to achieve chemical safety. The
INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL ON MINING AND METALS reiterated the need to
consider the benefits of chemicals.
On gaps in implementation, AUSTRALIA recommended
focusing on implementation rather than on gaps in current
priorities. SWITZERLAND said political will is inadequate and noted
a lack of institutional cooperation and synergies between relevant
On ways to improve assistance, SENEGAL reiterated
the importance of training and, with MEXICO, recommended evaluation
of existing assistance efforts. GERMANY noted the absence of donors
at Forum IV and stressed the need to address this problem. ICCA
supported focusing on implementation and developing measurable
indicators for success. SWEDEN, with others, called for the
integration of chemicals management in other policy areas to,
inter alia, enable donor funding. She also recommended
considering raising awareness on the harmful effects of chemicals at
all levels. AUSTRALIA recommended exploring the potential of GEF
On strategies for chemicals management, the
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC called for changes in production practices and,
with PESTICIDE ACTION NETWORK, for information on product toxicity.
SWEDEN said corporate responsibility initiatives could help prevent
the migration of polluting industries to developing countries.
MADAGASCAR proposed defining global criteria for the selection of
countries requiring financial assistance. JAMAICA suggested linking
food safety and chemicals management.
IPEN proposed a potential role for IFCS in
reviewing, monitoring and evaluating progress toward the achievement
of the WSSD 2020. SWITZERLAND and the EC opposed this suggestion,
stating that it predetermines the outcome of deliberations at the
PrepCom, and said the IFCS has a clear role in the elaboration of
the SAICM. Chair Sanders said recommendations and relevant inputs
would be incorporated into a compilation document, to be circulated
HAZARD DATA GENERATION AND AVAILABILITY: This
ad hoc Working Group, chaired by Gunnar Bengtsson (Sweden),
finalized the decision document based on delegates’ proposals,
including those on: safety data sheets; confidentiality claims; an
international repository on hazard information to be available "free
of charge"; and timeframes for making information accessible. A
revised document will be considered by Plenary on Thursday.
ACUTELY TOXIC PESTICIDES: This ad hoc
Working Group was chaired by Cathleen Barnes (US). Participants
considered the revised draft decision, which took into account the
input of Regional Groups and other participants. She noted that
provisions on stockpiles and liability and compensation are
important but may exceed the Groupï¿½s mandate, which is to address
acutely toxic pesticides causing occupational poisonings.
Participants agreed to a revised text that includes, among others, a
reference to the safe disposal of pesticide stockpiles. A suggestion
that governments and stakeholders consider "liability and
compensation issues" met with agreement. The revised document will
be presented to Plenary on Thursday.
CHILDREN AND CHEMICAL SAFETY: Ad hoc
Working Group Chair Michael Firestone (US) noted widespread
agreement among participants on the need to protect children. The
Group discussed the proposed actions outlined in the decision
document, including the need to: prepare national assessments to
provide a basis for developing action plans; develop mechanisms to
facilitate collaborative research; share information on ways to
protect children from chemical risks where there is uncertainty; and
convey these recommendations to other fora. The revised text will be
presented to Plenary on Thursday.
GHS: Chairing the informal working group,
Headrick noted strong support for the draft GHS Action Plan.
The group discussed financial issues, the 2008 implementation
target, and capacity building activities. A revised draft was
prepared for consideration by Plenary on Thursday.
IN THE CORRIDORS
Delegates kicked off discussions on the SAICM on
Tuesday. Most participants supported the need for a strategic
approach to addressing chemicals management, but as some delegates
noted, the interventions did not give much insight as to what form
this approach would take and what trajectory discussions at the
upcoming SAICM PrepCom would follow. Some delegates said they were
surprised at how discussions focused by and large on responding to
the thought starter. Disagreement arose regarding the input of this
Forum to the SAICM, with some seeing this as an opportunity for the
Forum and its stakeholders to enhance their role in the
international chemicals management regime, and others preferring to
keep the Forum within its present mandate.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
AD HOC WORKING GROUP: The Working Group on illegal
trafficking will meet from 9:00 am -12:00 pm in Conference Room 2. A
working document on this issue will be available.