The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management

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The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) is a United Nations (UN) initiative designed to set up a global chemicals agency to coordinate management of chemicals, wastes, and other substances on a global scale. The program is dubbed as a voluntary initiative through which “stakeholders” will engage in efforts to ensure safe management of chemicals. Such efforts include information sharing, harmonization of chemical risk standards and labeling, and training. In addition, SAICM is supposed to ensure ratification and implementation of environmental treaties, but how those goals will be pursued is unclear. Proponents argue that centralization of chemical policy is important because of the number of chemicals in world commerce today—some estimates range up to 100,000—and because of estimates that place chemical production as increasing by 80 percent within the next 15 years. 

SAICM began as an item discussed in chapter 19 of Agenda 21, an action plan agreed to at the UN Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. The conference also released the Rio Declaration, which outlined environmental goals. The Agenda 21 action plan proposed a system for global chemicals management. Since then there have been three international meetings on SAICM, and during the last meeting, held in February 2006, several documents were finalized that form the SAICM program: the high-level policy declaration called the “Dubai Declaration,” the “Global Action Plan,” and the “Overarching Policy Strategy.” Also during the 2006 meeting, the parties to the agreement established the Chemicals Secretariat in the UN to administer the program.