Third International Conference on Chemicals Management in Nairobi, Kenya
Mike Mozur, SETAC Global Executive Director and Aviti Mmochi, SETAC Africa Council
SETAC has been an active stakeholder as a non-governmental organization (NGO) in the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) since 2007 and an active participant in the various international conferences keyed to SAICM strategy and implementation. We attended ICCM2 in 2009 in Geneva and representatives from our geographic units have attended, with SAICM financial support, most regional SAICM meetings in intervening years. It was against this background and track record that we traveled to Nairobi for ICCM3.
The Nairobi meeting, held at United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters, brought all SAICM stakeholders together: some 170 governments, the 12 major international governmental organizations (mainly from the UN system and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD]) and 70 NGOs. The discussions focused on coordination of joint activities on a number of identified chemicals management issues, principally those identified as “emerging.” Three years ago, ICCM2 launched joint work on chemicals in products, lead in paint, nanomaterials and e-waste. In the interim since 2009, PFCs have been added as an area of concern and ICCM3 considered adding endocrine disruptors (agreed) and pharmaceuticals in the environment (not agreed). SETAC provided scientific input on persistent organic pollutants (POPs)/persistent bioaccumulative toxic substances (PBTs) and general emerging issues in 2009 and offered comments on endocrine disruptors and pharmaceuticals in preparation for ICCM3, with SETAC advisory groups generating the submissions.
During the conference, we managed to establish contacts with a range of delegates from stakeholder governments, the UN system (UNEP, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAO], OECD, etc.) and international and local NGOs. We continued our dialogue with Sylvie Lemmet, Director of UNEP’s Division of Technology, Industry and Economics and our key counterpart for the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative and with Prof. Abdouraman Barry, the UNEP Africa Regional Coordinator. In many conversations, we explored ways that we might collaborate in support of SETAC meetings in 2013, particularly with regard to the SETAC Africa meeting in Lusaka next September. We presented all delegations with a fact sheet on SETAC and ensured wide attention to upcoming meetings in Long Beach and Glasgow.
On SETAC science and the SAICM process, we made two interventions from the plenary floor. The first was to inform the broader group on the very active SETAC program on endocrine disruptors, where we have a new advisory group on Endocrine Disruptor Testing and Risk Assessment (EDTRA), SETAC Europe had a Special Science Symposium scheduled for October in Brussels and constant attention at sessions at our various meetings around the world. We also touched on pharmaceuticals, an area where our global advisory group has been working for some time. In our second intervention, we took the floor to stress the importance to SAICM of life-cycle assessment and thinking and underscored the important work ongoing in the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative since 2002 and now entering its Phase 3.
Some of our best discussions were within the regional caucuses, where we were able to attend the meetings of the Africa and Latin American/Caribbean groups. Working with David Kapindula, SETAC member from Zambia and Chair for the Africa meeting, we were able to brief African delegates on SETAC globally and on SETAC in Africa. We also circulated a PowerPoint presentation and were welcomed by some delegates who remarked that it was high time that SETAC, an organization with a solid foundation and international connections, was consolidated in Africa. This outreach will prove particularly helpful as we begin preparations for next year’s SETAC Africa conference in Zambia and we hope that a number of Nairobi attendees will join us in Lusaka.
We also briefed the Latin America/Caribbean group on SETAC activities in the region, including the then upcoming regional chapter meetings in Brazil and Buenos Aires and the geographic unit meeting in Buenos Aires in 2013. As is the case with Africa, this outreach to government representatives is particularly important as we work to build the SETAC tripartite model around the world.
Looking ahead to the future work of SAICM and a future ICCM4, it is clear that SETAC science is important to the process and that SETAC’s member-driven activities on such key topics as endocrine disruptors, POPs, pharmaceuticals, nano-materials, PFCs and others will be relevant to our fellow SAICM stakeholders. We can look forward to channeling our scientific findings and judgments to a global audience of decision-makers and civil society groups, thus ensuring SETAC’s relevance and promoting our science and tripartite Society globally.
We invite questions and comments from the SETAC membership and look forward to working with the World Council, geographic unit Councils and Board and the International Programs Committee to continue to develop and build on this excellent international audience for SETAC’s science and programs.
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