Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals
Development of GHS Training Modules in the Context of Africa
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The sound management of chemicals is an important means for protecting human health and the environment. One important tool for supporting chemical safety is the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). The GHS as a tool for facilitating the implementation of chemicals conventions has also been highlighted in recent international discussions (such as SAICM).
In Africa, the importance of the GHS has been highlighted in the Action Plan of the Environment Initiative of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). In the West African sub-region, the GHS was also cited as a priority by participants at the recent Regional GHS Workshop for ECOWAS Countries held 13-15 May 2008 in Abuja, Nigeria. Workshop recommendations included the need for further GHS training and awareness raising for countries in the region. However, it has been noted that lack of resources and capacity, as well as lack of awareness on the GHS, are obstacles to GHS implementation. Further, because the GHS affects multiple stakeholders and sectors, it is important to provide consistent training to support the implementation of the GHS. All groups at the regional and national levels must work together to manage chemicals for the protection of human health and the environment.
In response, the Basel Convention Secretariat and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) have cooperated to support the development of training and capacity building on the GHS for the Africa region. The purpose of this project was to develop a regionally relevant GHS training package. The training modules were pilot tested in Nigeria at a workshop that brought together technical and policy experts to review the materials, learn about the various aspects of the GHS and discuss the necessary steps and roles to implement the GHS.
The training was developed and carried out in collaboration with the Basel Convention Coordinating Centre (BCCC) in Nigeria. The project was executed by UNITAR, in the context of the UNITAR/ILO Global GHS Capacity Building Programme with the support of the Secretariat of the Basel Convention through the initiative “Towards a non-toxic Environment in Africa”. Funds and technical support were also provided by the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KemI) through the Basel Convention Technical Cooperation Trust Fund.
The overall goal of the project was to develop training modules on the GHS adapted for use in the Africa region in order to strengthen capacities to implement the GHS in line with global and regional efforts. The objectives of these training modules are to:
- to raise awareness of, and train decision-makers and relevant experts in all sectors about the GHS and its potential benefits for sustainable development, both in the context of the Africa region and the Basel Convention;
- to catalyze capacity development for GHS implementation in the private sector; and
- to enable civil society groups to participate actively in GHS implementation.
Based on the experiences of pilot countries and international experts, UNITAR and ILO have completed the development of an draft introductory training course on the GHS. Further, UNITAR and ILO, in cooperation with the BCCC have adapted the training course into region specific training modules, taking into consideration the specific circumstances and needs of the Africa context.
The training modules will cover:
- general chemicals use and safety issues in Africa;
- information on related initiatives for environmental management in the region and globally;
- GHS and its relation to the Basel Convention;
- topics related to GHS capacity building;
- responsibilities for implementation of the GHS, including stakeholders and sectors involved;
- in depth information on the main elements of the GHS;
- details on how to use and interpret GHS hazard communication tools.
This project resulted in:
- A workshop in Nigeria to pilot test the GHS training modules
- An adapted training package suited for the African region
This project is expected to contribute both to the protection of human health and the environment from dangerous chemicals, and to facilitate the trade in chemicals between countries and their trading partners.