The international mandate for the GHS was adopted in the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), as reflected in Agenda 21:
"A globally harmonized hazard classification and compatible labeling system, including material safety data sheets and easily understandable symbols, should be available, if feasible, by the year 2000".
In Johannesburg in 2002, the Plan of Action adopted by the World Summit on Sustainable Development encouraged countries to implement the new GHS as soon as possible, with a view to having the system fully operational by 2008.
The System is designed to:
Scope of the GHS
The System provides tools that countries can draw upon to develop national chemical hazard communication systems. It also provides a basis for the establishment of comprehensive chemical safety programs. The GHS is a voluntary system in that it does not impose binding treaty obligations on countries but, to the extent that countries adopt the GHS into national regulatory requirements, it will be binding on the regulated community.
Key U.S. agencies with responsibility for regulatory and international affairs formed an interagency committee coordinated by the Department of State to address implementation of GHS. Participating agencies include: