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Diplomacy in Action

Second Session: International Conference on Chemicals Management

Daniel A. Reifsnyder
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Geneva, Switzerland
May 11, 2009


Thank you, Mr. President.


Since the First Session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management in Dubai from February 4-6, 2006, many changes have taken place throughout the world – not least in my own country. Since January 20th of this year, we have a new administration in the United States – the Administration of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden – that takes very seriously concerns about the environment, about human health and about actions that may compromise them. Although the administration only recently passed the 100-day mark, evidence of these concerns and of the administration’s resolve to address them can already be seen in a number of areas. They can be seen in the U.S. position at the UN Environment Programme’s Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environmental Forum in February where the United States supported negotiation of a legally binding instrument on mercury. They can be seen in the finding of Lisa Jackson, the new Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, that carbon dioxide endangers human health and welfare. They can be seen in U.S. interest in considering approaches to phase down the growth of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as countries accelerate their phase outs of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), lest we solve one global environmental problem the threat to the stratospheric ozone layer – while further exacerbating another one – the threat to the global climate system.


These are but three examples of renewed interest in my country and renewed resolve to move forward on a broad range of problems simultaneously.


In approaching this Second Session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management, I am struck by how much was accomplished in Dubai three years ago where participants finalized the Dubai Declaration on International Chemicals Management, adopted the Overarching Policy Strategy and the Global Plan of Action and established the Quick Start Programme to support initial enabling capacity-building and implementation activities in developing countries, least developed countries, small island developing States and countries with economies in transition. These achievements set the stage for this session where we have the first opportunity as a global community to shape the nature of and approaches to be taken by this forum. Our time together will be brief so that we must work quickly and deliberately toward productive outcomes.


In this regard, I note that the ICCM and SAICM differ significantly from other international processes. First and foremost, we are here in a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder setting. To quote paragraph 2 of the Overarching Policy Strategy (OPS):

“2. The involvement of all relevant sectors and stakeholders, including at the local, national, regional and global levels is seen as key to achieving the objectives of the Strategic Approach as is a transparent and open implementation process and public participation in decision-making, featuring in particular a strengthened role for women.”

We know that “The main stakeholders in the Strategic Approach are understood to be governments, regional economic integrator organizations, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and individuals involved in the management of chemicals throughout their life-cycles from all relevant sectors, including, but not limited to, agriculture, environment, health, industry, relevant economic activity, development cooperation, labour and science.” From the OPS, we also know that “Individual stakeholders include consumers, disposers, employers, farmers, producers, regulators, researchers, suppliers, transporters and workers.”


The ICCM and SAICM are thus not strictly intergovernmental – they are different, broader and more inclusive. For those of us who spend much of our time (perhaps too much of our time…) in intergovernmental forums, we must stop and recognize that the ICCM and SAICM are different and recognize perhaps that traditional ways of organizing ourselves and operating in such forums may not quite fit what we do here. For example, can we give freer reign to discussion and to outcomes if they are recognized as coming from a multi-stakeholder forum, which may not precisely reflect the views of governments that take part in it? In this regard, reflecting the voluntary and broadly participatory nature of this process, should decisions here ultimately be taken by all participants rather than some subset?


Recognizing the potential of such a forum, it is clear that it may prove strongly influential in helping to shape issues and views that may come before other bodies for action – for example, the Governing Council of the UN Environment Programme, or the Commission on Sustainable Development or the Conferences of the Parties to various multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) such as the Stockholm Convention, the Rotterdam Convention or the Basel Convention. To that end, however, will the influence of this body be greater if it can agree on a simple, brief message contained in a single omnibus resolution, or a handful of resolutions; or will it be greater if we emerge in the early morning hours next Saturday with multiple, lengthy and complex texts that are rarely read and soon forgotten? To us, the answer and the approach we would commend are quite obvious.


Aside from its character as a multi-stakeholder forum, the ICCM and SAICM meet only once every three years. What does this mean then in terms of what they can accomplish? First the triennial nature of this gathering makes it important to focus this week on the regional networks and how to strengthen them, to focus on the role of the regional networks in capacity building and their role in identifying emerging issues.


We may also wish to consider whether the outputs of the regional networks should feed into one or two preparatory sessions in 2011 before ICCM Three that could help to T-up important issues to be considered in 2012.


There is a need, however, for caution and economy in this regard. In our view the process would not be well-served by a proliferation on inter-sessional activities with their own demands for resources and financial support. Instead, we should seek to capitalize on that which already exists – like the regional networks -- and take advantage of existing, helpful precedents – like the Open-Ended Legal and Technical Working Group, whose mandate was slightly expanded to serve as a limited preparatory process session for this meeting.


We must seek to use existing resources and marshal additional resources instead to carry on and expand the excellent work of the Quick Start Programme and to fulfil one of our most important responsibilities – capacity building for the sound management of chemicals and hazardous wastes and for promoting the transfer of cleaner and safer technologies to developing countries and countries with economies in transition.


So, Mr. President, we approach this Second session with great energy and enthusiasm. We look forward this week to working with all participants here to help shape a meaningful and effective process that will serve us well in the years to come to take advantage of the ICCM’s broad convening power, SAICM’s overarching mandate and the visibility of the high-level forum.


Thank you, Mr. President.

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