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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Chemicals Management

Daniel A. Reifsnyder
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
International Conference on Chemicals Management: Second Session
Geneva, Switzerland
May 18, 2009


Thank you, Mr. President.

We are gathered here today, mindful that the overall objective of the Strategic Approach is to achieve the sound management of chemicals throughout their life-cycle so that, by 2020, chemical are used and produced in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment.

Much has been achieved since our first session in Dubai in 2006 and we are heartened at the interest we have found among colleagues here in developing specific indicators to measure progress in achieving the objectives of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management. As we continue to identify emerging issues it will be important not to lose sight of where we began and what we have already accomplished along the way. In this regard, we are particularly grateful to the many non-governmental organizations here who are working so hard in this area.

At the same time, there is an enormous task ahead of us if we are to realize the promise of SAICM and to achieve our overall objective. Yesterday someone said that in many ways this Second Session of the ICCM is really like the second half of the First Session as we seek to work out many of the organizational issues and process questions left unresolved in Dubai. This is important work and will be vital to the future. In our view, SAICM has great potential to serve as an important adjunct to work on sound chemical management taking place in other fora including, for example, in the United Nations Environment Programme, in the numerous multilateral environmental agreements in this area including the Vienna, Stockholm, Rotterdam and Basel Conventions and in the forthcoming cycle in the Commission on Sustainable Development. As a multi-sector, multi-stakeholder forum, SAICM and the ICCM can provide a vital meeting place for many disciplines, many sectors with many different concerns and interests to meet one another, to share their perspectives, to exchange ideas and information and to agree on common efforts in pursuit of the overall objective. This is a place where governments and civil society can work with each other and learn from each other. It is also a place where developed and developing countries, and economies in transition can work effectively together to promote sound chemical management globally.

To realize this potential, we see a need for a more structured approach to our next conference in 2012. First, as we have said repeatedly, we see tremendous value in the regional networks and regional meetings. They are vital, in particular, to bringing forward the issues of greatest concern to developing countries and countries with economies in transition and to identifying and prioritizing needs for capacity building. We believe that regional meetings in 2010 should feed into a preparatory meeting in 2011 for ICCM-3, much like the preparatory meeting held in Rome last year in conjunction with the meeting of the Open-Ended Legal and Technical Working Group.

We see no need at this early stage in the evolution of SAICM and ICCM to create subsidiary bodies or to focus too much on bureaucratic structures. We will now have a bureau and the regional focal points, and we have the Secretariat, and in our view they can help to structure and organize our work. That work should be organized around meetings, not around new institutional structures. In fact, we see some danger in focusing on the issue of subsidiary bodies and bureaucratic structure – the danger is that, once established, these bodies and structures will have resource needs that will compete for the limited pool of funds now available.

Of course, it would be simple to suggest that we just dig deeper to increase the available pool of funds – and this we hope to do – but in our view it is vastly preferable to devote these funds to strengthening capacity building efforts in developing countries and economies in transition, and to establish a track record of achievement rather than to building new bureaucratic structures. We must be more agile than this, more focused on results and less on process.

Moving forward, Mr. Chairman, we see two other issues that will require more thought in future years. The first is how we bring the tremendously valuable learning opportunities presented by the multiple and outstanding “side-events” here more fully into the core work of SAICM. We need to make “side-events” central events. We need to feature them as a core part of our program and not as add-ons or extras. It has been regrettable this week that too many excellent events have been undermined by the convening of contact groups at every available hour outside of the plenary and that these contact groups have drawn away delegates who would otherwise have wished to attend them. In this, I am a strong admirer of Stockholm’s Water Week each August, which brings together virtually everyone who is anyone in the world of water for a week of intense intellectual ferment and exchange. Stockholm Water Week is enormously productive and yet it spends almost no time negotiating texts.

Second, we need to focus more on how to enlist the support and expertise of scientists and scientific bodies into our work. We understand concerns about not appearing to extend the imprimatur of SAICM to one particular group or body lest this favor one at the expense of others or lest this end up selecting a particular group or body whose purpose and interests may not be fully consistent with those of SAICM. Nevertheless, and without creating a new body within SAICM, we should be able to find ways to tap the expertise of scientists and scientific bodies in pursuit of SAICM’s objective.

Mr. President, we are delighted to be here and extremely gratified by the excitement and sense of urgency we have found among our colleagues. We very much look forward to working together from this point forward.

I thank you.

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