Executive Secretary leads debates on linkages between Human Rights and Hazardous Chemicals and Wastes

The link between human rights and the quality of the human environment in all its dimensions was first acknowledged at the United Nations (UN) Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Declaration) in 1972. Over the past several decades, this linkage has been sustained through various international declarations and international legal instruments.

In a world where inequality is increasing, poor people are disproportionately more exposed to the harmful effects of hazardous chemicals and waste. As the international community discusses the post-2015 policy agenda, including the formulation of meaningful and integrated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide policies and interventions into the next decade, the relevance of a rights-based approach to development, including sustainable chemicals and waste management, is of greater relevance than ever before.

On 17 December 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland, Mr. Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, moderated a side-event on “A Rights-Based Approach to Sound Chemicals Management”. This was co-organised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and held during the second meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

The purpose of this event was to bring together the expertise of various stakeholders dealing with human rights and the environment, in order to share their experiences and discuss a human-rights based approach to sound chemicals management, hence contributing to achieve the overarching goal of sustainable development.

In this regard, the Executive Secretary underlined that the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions are strongly committed to protecting both the environment and human beings, thus addressing human rights such as the right to live in a healthy environment among others.

More specifically, the discussions focused on sharing lessons learned as well as identifying challenges and opportunities in the efforts of interlinking such priorities. The panel of speakers and participants, representing a wide range of stakeholders - including the UN OHCHR Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, national ministries, and civil society - considered the following: why and how human rights may be integrated in the achievement of the sound management of hazardous chemicals and, vice versa; and why and how managing chemicals in a sound manner may better contribute in promoting human rights. The debates analysed what has been achieved so far and shed light on actions required by 2020.

For more information, please see:

SAICM OEWG webpage: https://www.saicm.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=510:information-pack-2nd-meeting-of-the-open-ended-working-group-geneva-15-17-december-2015&catid=92:oewg

OHCHR webpage: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Environment/ToxicWastes/Pages/SRToxicWastesIndex.aspx