Nanotechnology and manufactured nanomaterials (“nano”) is a growing industry which creates an array of economic and social benefits, while potential risks to human health and the environment are, to-date, not fully known. As a result, numerous nano-containing products are placed on the market, creating the need to prepare appropriate regulations and safety standards.
International Policy Response
To address these global challenges, nano has been included as key topic under the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). Resolution III/2E of the third International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM3) invited “relevant international organizations, such as UNITAR, to ....develop guidance and training materials, and ….enhance stakeholder capacity for the sound management of nanotechnologies and manufactured nanomaterials.”
Working within the framework of the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC), UNITAR has implemented, since 2009, a range of activities to support developing countries to raise awareness on nanosafety issues and consider the implications of nano-based and nano-containing products traded across borders. Core funding for these activities has been generously provided by the Government of Switzerland.
Activities and Results
From 2009 to 2011, UNITAR organized nine regional workshops on nano in the African, Arab, Asia-Pacific, Central and Eastern European, and Latin America and Caribbean regions, with a focus on raising awareness on current and potential applications of nanomaterials. More than 500 experts participated in these events, representing stakeholders from government, industry, and civil society. Due to the success of these workshops, countries requested a second round of workshops, which commenced in early 2011. The latter workshops focused on developing consensus on new nano work areas and activities to be included in SAICM’s Global Plan of Action and prepared participants for negotiations at ICCM3, September 2012.
In 2011, UNITAR commenced support of national nano pilot projects in developing countries. The projects have focused on integrating nano-related safety management into existing national programmes for the sound management of chemicals, and on strengthening technical and institutional capacities to address challenges. Initial results and lessons learned from the pilot projects in Nigeria, Thailand, and Uruguay were considered at ICCM3. A second phase of nano pilot project started in late 2013 in Armenia, Jordan, and Vietnam.
Training Materials and Resources
To support country-driven processes on nano, UNITAR has developed a guidance document entitled “Developing a National Nanotechnology Policy and Programme”, available in English and Russian. For national and regional training activities, UNITAR is supported by a network of experts from around the world.
- E-learning Course: Introduction to Nanomaterials Safety , 5 May to 27 June 2014 and 27 October to 15 December 2014
- National planning workshops in Armenia (2-3 September 2014) and Jordan, 2015
- National technical training workshops (April to July 2015) on nanosafety Vietnam, Armenia, Jordan, 2015
- Sub-regional workshops on nanosafety in collaboration with OECD for Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Caribbean
- Nano-Side-event at the second meeting of the SAICM Open-ended Working Group , 15 December 2014 and at the Fourth session of the international Conference on Chemicals Management, 28 September to 2 October 2015
- Nanosafety Regional Workshop for the Africa Region Zambia
UNITAR is committed to work with national, regional, and global partners to help address future challenges related to nano. Capacity development services under consideration and resources permitting include, for example:
- Implementation of additional nano country projects
- Training and knowledge-sharing on nano regulations
- Trainings on nano-related occupational health safety issues for workers
- Training on labelling standards for nano-containing products (e.g. for customs)
- Further public awareness raising (e.g. through UNITAR’s nano e-learning course)
UNITAR would like to acknowledge the collaboration with Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), and the International PoPs Elimination Network (IPEN). In addition, UNITAR has signed a cooperative framework agreement with Thailand’s National Nanotechnology Center (NANOTEC) to strengthen existing programmes on nanotechnology to the mutual benefit of Member States of the United Nations in the Southeast Asia region. Financial contributions have been provided by the Governments of Switzerland, USA, United Kingdom, and Sweden.