Nanotechnology and Manufactured Nanomaterials

Overview

Nanotechnology/Manufactured Nanomaterials is an exciting new field that promises a broad array of benefits to humans and our environment. However, with these clear benefits come potential risks to the environment and human health - risks that, to-date, are not fully known.

UNITAR is embarking with our partner OECD, within the framework of the IOMC to raise awareness in countries about this new topic - including what the implications for developing and transition countries will be as nano-based or nano-containing products are traded across borders, into jurisdictions where there is little or no capacity to address them.

Activities commenced in late 2009 with a first round of global regional awareness-raising workshops for all UN developing and transition countries. These workshops, the first of which was held in Beijing for Asia-Pacific countries, briefed participants about nanotechnology and manufactured nanomaterials, their potential benefits and risks, and possible implications for governments and other stakeholders. These awareness-raising workshops were then followed by a second round of regional workshops in early 2011, requested by countries, as a follow-up to the first round. For the full list of regional workshops, please click here.

This work takes its mandate from Resolution II/4 of the Second International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM-2), which was held in Geneva in May, 2009. The resolution was adopted by all governments and stakeholders present. The resolution comprises (in part) the following language: “[ICCM-2]…encourages Governments and other stakeholders to assist developing countries and countries with economies in transition to enhance their capacity to use and manage nanotechnologies and manufactured nanomaterials responsibly, to maximize potential benefits and to minimize potential risks” (see ICCM-2 report, SAICM/ICCM.2/15, advance copy of 27 May 2009).

Further to the decision of ICCM-2, the June 2009 Joint Meeting of the OECD instructed UNITAR, in cooperation with the OECD Secretariat, to undertake awareness raising and other related activities in developing countries regarding the potential risks (e.g. to the environment or human health) and benefits (e.g. decreased costs of low-maintenance products, or use in environmental remediation) of nanotechnology and nanomaterials. As a result, a 2010 UNITAR survey was conducted in OECD and non-OECD countries to identify information pertaining to legislation, national governance, and experiences in awareness-raising in regard to nanotechnology and manufactured nanomaterials. To view a summary of the results of the survey, please click here.

In addition to the series of awareness-raising workshops and survey, UNITAR, with the support of the Government of Switzerland, will also undertake pilot projects to assist developing and transition countries to develop programmatic capacities to address nano issues at the national level. For more information, please click here.

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