The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), is a global policy framework to promote chemicals management through multi stakeholder and multi sectoral approach. SAICM still “provides a good basis for establishing the measures necessary for improving chemicals management globally”, and its format and mandate is currently under renegotiation in an intersessional process to prepare recommendations regarding the Strategic Approach and the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020, initiated by the SAICM governing body, the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM).
To further support SAICM implementation, the Overall Orientation Guidance (OOG) document was adopted in 2015 by the ICCM to support prioritization of actions for reaching the SAICM 2020 goal on sound management of chemicals. It lists eleven core elements necessary to have in place at the national level to achieve sound chemical management. These elements are still expected to be a priority in the successor to SAICM, upon conclusion of the intersessional process.
A strong focus of the SAICM intersessional process is on: preventive chemicals management, mainstreaming of chemicals in national budgeting and development plans, cost recovery mechanisms, definition of industry and authority roles and responsibilities, increased transparency of chemicals in material/article life cycles to promote safe and viable circular economy, and information sharing. Adoption of the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is also one of the elements. The OOG also specifically calls for multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder work for the realization of sound management of chemicals.
To our knowledge, formalized and systematic multi-stakeholder models for SAICM implementation, involving CSOs, are missing in most African countries. Similarly, many countries in the global south lack a systematic and coordinated multi stakeholder approach to chemicals and waste management. In some countries where multi stakeholder forums do exist, these have remained largely ad hoc and underfunded due to low political understanding and will on chemicals impact resulting in poor coordination on safe chemicals and waste management.
According to the Global Chemicals Outlook, 2018 Africa is projected to witness an exponential growth in production in the chemicals industry. Increased urbanization and demographic growth pose double threats with regard to chemicals use and production in the region, in combination with a general lack of proper enforcement of existing regulations.
The objective of achieving sound management of chemicals in Africa through the multi-stakeholder model and meaningful participation in the SAICM negotiations necessitates capacity building among the stakeholders and decision makers in the participating countries and the African Region in general. This project will additionally serve as a basis for a strengthened science-policy interface where stakeholders from the scientific community, civil society, academic and policy makers engage in meaningful ways to inform decisions and actions on chemicals management in the context of Africa.