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From Sandoz to Sendai - highlighting the importance of improving industrial safety on International Day for Disaster Reduction

UNECE is highlighting the importance of improving industrial safety on International Day for Disaster Reduction (13 October) – a day designated by the United Nations General Assembly to draw attention to the urgent need to reduce humanitarian, social, economic and environmental risks of natural and man-made disasters.

UNECE’s Industrial Accidents Convention helps countries to reduce and manage disaster risks arising from hazardous industrial activities by strengthening cooperation and capacities for prevention, preparedness and response.

The Convention was negotiated following the 1986 Sandoz accident in Schweizerhalle, Switzerland, which had far-reaching cross-border consequences, polluting the Rhine River flowing through Germany, France and up to the Netherlands. By facilitating transboundary cooperation, the Convention – adopted in 1992 – assists countries in preventing industrial accidents and to effectively prepare for and respond to accidents if they occur.

Mobilizing a strong network of experts and strategic partners, the Convention offers a variety of tools including safety guidelines and good practices for tailings management facilities, pipelines and oil terminals, for use by authorities, operators and the public within and beyond the UNECE region.

Through its Assistance Programme, the Convention supports countries in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia in enhancing industrial safety.

Through the broad support it provides to countries, the Convention contributes to the implementation of the international Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and relevant targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by enhancing the understanding of disaster risk, and by fostering resilience through industrial accident prevention and preparedness.

To showcase this vital contribution, the video “From Sandoz to Sendai”, launched today, features messages and appeals from a range of actors and stakeholders in the Convention’s implementation, including focal points from authorities, experts, operators, partners, secretariat staff, and the younger generation.

Mr. Robert Glasser, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction underlines that “The Industrial Accidents Convention plays a key role in supporting the implementation of one of the main hazards covered under the Sendai Framework i.e. Man-made and technological hazards. It does that mainly through encouraging Parties to identify potentially hazardous activities to be able to target preventive measures, preparedness and response and by providing a governance mechanism for regional cooperation to address transboundary disaster risk reduction”.

The Chair to the Convention’s Conference of the Parties, Ms. Jasmina Karba (Slovenia), highlights how “the Industrial Accidents Convention is an ideal tool to support countries in reaching the Sendai goals: It has tools readily available to support countries”. A representative of an oil terminal operator, Ms. Svetlana Stirbu (Republic of Moldova), reports that “large scale field exercises were very successful and accelerated the cooperation between the industries and our authorities”. These exercises were organized in the framework of the Danube Delta project, implemented by the Republic of Moldova, Romania and Ukraine, under the auspices of the Convention.

In line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the UNECE Industrial Accidents Convention wishes to encourage countries today to continue their efforts to reduce and manage disaster risks. Countries need to continuously invest in preventing industrial accidents, and in being better prepared to respond to such accidents - both within and across national boundaries. UNECE stands ready to support countries in the implementation of the Convention and advancing the priorities set out in the Sendai Framework.

To learn more about the Convention, please visit: http://www.unece.org/env/teia/