• English

24 February 2010, Bali, Indonesia

Speaking Notes for H.E. Mr. Ján Kubiš
United Nations Under-Secretary General and
Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

  • UNECE shares responsibility within the U.N. system for promoting sound management of chemicals and wastes.  It cooperates closely with UNEP on implementation of comprehensive approaches to chemical pollutants and waste, in order to deliver as “One United Nations”. In sharing this responsibility, therefore, UNECE welcomes the U.N. Campaign for Responsibility on Hazardous Chemicals and Wastes.

  • UNECE serves as secretariat to a number of important regional multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) of global importance to the life-cycle approach to chemicals and waste management.  Included among these are:

    • The Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, with its protocols on heavy metals and POPs;

    • The Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention), which among other things establishes a general right-to-know about the state of the environment, including chemical pollution. (As an aside, UNECE welcomes the development by UNEP of global guidelines on this topic and stands ready to provide appropriate support for their application on the basis of our first decade of experience with the Convention);

    • More specifically, the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR) developed under the Aarhus Convention.

      • The Protocol on PRTR recently entered into force, making it the planet’s newest chemicals treaty.  The Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol will hold its first session in Geneva in April 2010.

      • The Protocol covers many of the harmful substances addressed by the Safe Planet Campaign, including dioxins and furans, PCBs, lead and mercury. It requires companies to report annually on their releases and transfers of these and other chemicals, with the data being uploaded on a publicly accessible register.

      • As a mechanism for supporting the public’s right-to-know about chemical risks and to engage in chemicals and waste management initiatives, the Protocol on PRTR complements the public awareness and outreach objectives of the Safe Planet Campaign.

      • In a global forum such as this, it is worth mentioning that the Protocol is open to accession by all UN Member States, irrespective of whether they are Parties to the parent Convention.

  • UNECE encompasses many countries with economies in transition. Countries in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia are working hard to implement the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the global and regional agreements, which collectively address the chemicals and waste challenge, but lack of institutional and technical capacity hinders their efforts.

    • The legacy of poor chemicals and waste management in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia poses serious threats to the health and safety of people in the region. During the recent Fourth Regional Implementation Meeting on Sustainable Development (RIM-4) governments stressed the need for a better regulatory infrastructure as well as technical and financial assistance  to clean up contaminated sites and move towards sound chemicals management*

    • The Dushanbe Conference on the Protocol on PRTR, held in May 2009, under the auspices of the OSCE and UNECE, highlighted the need for increasing laboratory and environmental monitoring capacity throughout the region.

    • Guidelines for Strengthening Environmental Monitoring and Reporting by Enterprises in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia, were adopted in 2007 within the UNECE Working Group,on Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. They are the result of active cooperation between experts from pollution control authorities, business and industry, and civil society, and demonstrate the value of multi-stakeholder engagement on pollution prevention and control.

In conclusion, UNECE welcomes the launch by UNEP of this global biomonitoring project. The project has the potential to raise awareness of the extent to which our bodies are affected by industrial pollution and to highlight the way in which chemicals do not respect international boundaries. By putting the spotlight on these issues, the project should lead to more responsible approaches to society’s production and use of chemicals and thus make a valuable contribution to our common efforts to achieve environmental sustainability – and specifically the goal of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, 2002) that by the year 2020, chemicals be used and produced in ways that minimize significant adverse effects on human health and the environment. I wish all of us every success with the project.

* Environment and Security. Transforming risks into cooperation. The case of Central Asia and South Eastern Europe  (2003: UNEP, UNDP, OSCE), p. 30.