CIEL Plays Decisive Role in Global Chemicals Conference

May 2009

The Second International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM-2) was held in Geneva, Switzerland, during the week of May 11-15, 2009. Delegates from more than 122 countries and dozens of public interest advocates, business associations, trade unions, and other stakeholders gathered to discuss progress toward the ambitious goal to use and produce chemicals by 2020 in ways that minimize significant adverse effects on human health and the environment. While the Conference made important progress in addressing procedural and institutional issues that were left unresolved at the first ICCM three years ago, most participants and observers reported mixed results in ICCM’s efforts towards achieving the 2020 goal. CIEL played a decisive role in achieving much of the progress that was made.

ICCM-2 presented the first opportunity to review the implementation of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), which the first ICCM adopted in Dubai in 2006. SAICM is a non-legally binding, multi-stakeholder process that is guided by a High Level Declaration of political commitment; an Overarching Policy Strategy containing the operating principles and approaches of SAICM; and a Global Plan of Action that identifies 273 key activities for implementation under SAICM.

SAICM and ICCM provide a global forum to address international chemicals management issues. Through its inclusive nature, ICCM facilitates exchange and coordination among governments, international organizations, businesses, civil society organizations, and other interested stakeholders. However, questions remain regarding the ability of SAICM to meet the 2020 goal, due in part to its voluntary nature.

Because of the first ICCM’s failure to adopt the basic operational rules to guide actions during the subsequent three-year period, ICCM-2 was forced to address fundamental organizational issues as well as a full agenda of substantive matters. In addition to negotiating and finally adopting its rules of procedure, ICCM-2 addressed long-term financing to support capacity building in developing countries, as well as how progress would be measured and reported in the future. Substantive discussions focused largely on four “emerging issues,” including lead in paint, chemicals in products, electronic waste, and nanotechnology.

CIEL played an active and influential role in ICCM-2, with important achievements in the following areas:

  • Rules of Procedure: Political deadlock prevented the first ICCM from
    adopting the basic operating rules for how to conduct itself, leaving
    much of the planning process for ICCM-2 in disarray. In the months
    before ICCM-2, CIEL prepared draft rules that addressed all of the
    outstanding issues, bridged the disagreement among governments on
    the rules for decision-making, and won the support of all participants
    as the basis for discussion at ICCM-2. In direct negotiations with
    China and Iran, CIEL developed a solution to their concerns over NGO
    participation, which allowed final adoption of the rules by the Conference.
  • Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG): Preparations for ICCM-2 suffered
    from the absence of rules of procedure and the lack of a formal intersessional
    planning process. Working with Switzerland, the European Union, Chile,
    and other governments, CIEL helped craft agreement to establish a
    permanent “open-ended working group” that will meet once
    before every session of the Conference to prioritize work, consider
    proposals, and undertake other preparations for the upcoming session.
    Coupled with the adoption of the rules of procedure, establishment
    of the OEWG provides essential footing for productive implementation
    of SAICM in the coming years.
  • Emerging Issues: Relying on an ad hoc process during the run up to
    the Conference, participants selected four proposals for “emerging
    issues” to receive special consideration at ICCM-2: lead in paint,
    chemicals in products, electronic waste, and nanotechnology. The proposals
    were advanced by lead proponents and refined in working groups during
    ICCM-2. CIEL collaborated with South Africa, Brazil, Switzerland and
    others to develop a process for selecting future emerging issues through
    nominations facilitated by the Secretariat, regional consultation
    and review, and consideration by the OEWG in 2010. Additionally, the
    United States pressed for ICCM-2 approval of a voluntary stewardship
    program with OECD, industry and others to reduce releases of perfluorinated
    chemicals and to identify safer alternatives.
  • Nanotechnology: After coordinating a working group of more than 20
    NGOs from around the world during the weeks before the Conference,
    CIEL contributed actively to development of an ICCM-2 resolution on
    nanotechnologies and manufactured nanomaterials. Working closely with
    Switzerland, which originally proposed the issue, CIEL served as a
    panelist in a Swiss-sponsored side event on nanotechnology and prepared
    the first draft of the nanotech resolution that Switzerland tabled.
    CIEL garnered support from Thailand, Brazil and other developing countries
    and, by leading NGO efforts in late night drafting sessions, ensured
    that nanotechnologies and manufactured nanomaterials were recognized
    as an issue of global concern, despite resistance from the OECD, United
    States, and others. CIEL also helped to ensure the Conference’s recognition
    of the need for research, capacity building, and information sharing
    and gathering related to nanotechnologies. Finally, CIEL released
    and distributed a new discussion paper at ICCM-2, “Addressing
    Nanotechnology as an Issue of Global Concern
    ,” which is available
    on CIEL’s website.
  • Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS): IFCS is a multi-stakeholder
    forum established under Agenda 21 that served as an inspiration and
    important precedent for SAICM. After SAICM was adopted in 2005, CIEL
    played the leading role in negotiations on what the future status
    of IFCS should be. However, at ICCM-2, it became apparent that IFCS
    no longer enjoyed the support of donor governments, who were instead
    devoting their resources to SAICM; moreover, the establishment by
    ICCM of an intersessional open-ended working group rendered a preparatory
    role for IFCS unnecessary. CIEL drafted an ICCM resolution that commended
    IFCS for its historic contributions to the chemical safety agenda
    and respectfully conveyed the message that IFCS would not be integrated
    into SAICM. CIEL arranged for the resolution to be introduced by the
    European Union, Argentina, Chile, Japan, South Africa and Switzerland,
    after which it was unanimously adopted by the Conference.


For more information, please contact David Azoulay.