Linkages between children, human rights, and chemicals and wastes

2016 Day of General Discussion 23rd September 2016 on Children’s Rights and the Environment

Speech given by Amelie Taoufiq, Legal Officer, on behalf of Dr. Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions (UNEP)

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, dear colleagues, friends, ladies and gentlemen:

First, on behalf of Dr. Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the BRS Conventions on hazardous chemicals and wastes, three Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) administered by UNEP, please allow me to thank the Committee on the Rights of the Child, OHCHR and other partners, for organising this Day of General Discussion on the environment and children’s rights, including the side-event on the “Unsound Management of Chemicals and the Rights of the Child”, as well as panellists for their very interesting presentations. Today discussion, we believe, is of major importance so that we may all brainstorm, identify and analyse gaps, think forward and look ahead in terms of concrete course of actions on these key issues.

Indeed, children are the future... They are and should be at the core of our preoccupations and work. They are among the most affected by harmful effects on health and the environment caused by hazardous chemicals wastes; but as children can be great agents of change, they are also part of the solution for a ‘detoxified future’....

Also, on this occasion, I would like to thank the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Mr. Tuncak, for his excellent work, which we support, and for the report presented last week at the Human Rights Council, pointing out the “silent pandemic” of disease and disability affecting millions of children, to the point that paediatricians now begun to sadly refer to children born “pre-polluted”....

In this regard, within the BRS/UNEP perspective, I would like to quickly highlight 3 (three) angles, as follows:

1. Some positive achievements and examples under BRS Conventions/UNEP with respect to the protection of children from exposure to hazardous chemicals and wastes:

  • It is important to recall that, through their common objectives, i.e. the protection of human health and the environment, the BRS Conventions are committed, in their provisions implementation, to protect children from hazardous chemicals and wastes, thereby contributing to protect fundamental children’s rights such as the rights: to life, to health, to a healthy environment, to development, to food security , to clean water and sanitation and to an adequate standard of leaving;
  • The specific conditions of vulnerable groups, including children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, and indigenous communities, including children therefrom, are explicitly and implicitly recognized in some convention provisions or taken into account in specific programmes implementing the BRS Conventions; also in this respect, the BRS Secretariat has been active, even before adoption of SDG No5 on gender, on promoting gender equality, between men and women, as well as boys and girls, which is closely linked to protecting children (e.g. development of the BRS-Gender Action Plan/GAP).
  • To prevent and remedy harmful exposure of human beings, mostly children, to hazardous chemicals and wastes, it is essential to monitor this exposure e.g.:  the Global Monitoring Programme (GMP) on POPS and breast milk in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO);
  • BRS S-Y-N-E-R-G-I-E-S……at all levels;
  • Among the most recent positive UNEP achievements: adoption of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, to enter into force the soonest hopefully, and perhaps to be synergized with the BRS Conventions, following the life-cycle approach of sound management of chemicals and wastes;
  • Etc..
2. The gaps, i.e. where additional guidance and developments are needed, most essentially would be:
  • Compliance mechanisms and procedures to still be adopted under the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions;
  • Financing, mobilizing funds;
  • Prevention from exposure…;
  • Involvement of not all relevant stakeholders;
  • Limited number of chemicals listed;
  • Awareness, communication, education, information;
  • Capacity;
  • Etc..

3. Some ideas of good practices and recommendations, could be for instance:

  • More synergies, i.e. to enhance cooperation and coordination, between all relevant stakeholders, and at all levels, national, regional and international levels. So,
  • “Partnerships, partnerships, partnerships”….recalling the recent words of the newly appointed UNEP Executive Director, Mr. Erik Solheim;
  • More chemicals listed under the Conventions - through the CRC and POPRC,  the technical and scientific bodies under the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions - and ultimately by the Conference of the Parties;
  • More awareness raising, education, communication;
  • More funding…;
  • More technical assistance in order to build better capacity on these issues;
  • Environmental treaties to refer more explicitly to vulnerable groups, including children;
  • Etc..

Finally, I would like to recall and encourage you to participate in the forthcoming 2017 meetings of the Conferences of the Parties (COP) of the BRS Conventions, to be held in May; the meetings will include a high-level segment. The theme of the meetings and the high-level segment will be “A future detoxified: sound management of chemicals and wastes”. Thus, these may be a good momentum and an opportunity to seize so as to continue addressing the important issues mentioned above and these discussed at today DGD, in order to eventually help ‘detoxify the future’...