The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) is a voluntary initiative to help countries manage chemicals within their borders to reduce the harmful impact of chemicals on human health and the environment. It does not affect the interpretation or application of rights and obligations that governments have undertaken in binding international agreements, such as those in the Montreal Protocol or other international fora such as the World Trade Organization.
SAICM thus builds upon already agreed approaches to chemicals management and science-based risk assessment, and seeks to build the capacity of developing countries and economies in transition to safely manage chemicals.
Previous negotiations on chemicals management were focused on specific categories, such as ozone-depleting or persistent organic pollutants. International negotiators recognized the need to address a range of other chemicals through a mechanism other than a legally binding instrument for each such chemical. Thus, at the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM) (www.chem.unep.ch/saicm/) in February 2006 in Dubai, negotiators agreed on a “Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management” (SAICM).
The negotiation brought together more than 100 governments and a wide range of international organizations and stakeholder representatives and resulted in three documents:
- The “Dubai Declaration,” a high-level Declaration that expresses the commitment to SAICM
- The Overarching Policy Strategy, which outlines the scope and objectives of SAICM
- A “Global Plan of Action,” a working tool and guidance document which sets out proposed “work areas and activities” for implementation of the Strategic Approach
SAICM aims to ensure the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle. There are no specific reduction targets or quantitative goals. Rather, SAICM articulated a number of qualitative objectives, including:
- Reducing the risk to human health and the environment associated with chemicals
- Ensuring that knowledge and information about chemicals and chemicals management are sufficient to enable chemicals to be adequately assessed and managed safely throughout their life cycle
- Promoting appropriate governance of chemicals through actions such as domestic enforcement of laws, coordination between relevant departments that deal with chemicals, and inclusion of a variety of stakeholders, such as civil society, in domestic processes
- Building capacity in developing and transitional economies to safely manage chemicals
- Fostering technical cooperation on how to manage chemicals safely
- Preventing illegal international traffic in chemicals, a potential problem in countries that lack effective management strategies
The scope of SAICM covers agricultural and industrial chemicals throughout their life-cycle, but explicitly excludes products such as food additives and pharmaceuticals that are regulated by a domestic food or pharmaceutical authority, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
SAICM Beyond 2020
In September/October 2015, countries and other SAICM stakeholders agreed to an intersessional process to consider SAICM’s future beyond its scheduled end in 2020. This process is referred to as the “intersessional process” and the “Beyond 2020” process. A decision on SAICM’s future will be made at the fifth International Conference on Chemicals Management, to be held in Bonn, Germany in October 2020.