'Partnerships Contributing to the Future We Want' - Labeling Chemicals at Rio+20

22 June, 2012, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - The Partnerships Forum session on “Partnerships Contributing to the Future We Want”, considered forward-looking reflections, existing practices and concrete guidance regarding how partnerships can be best positioned to catalyze sustainable development action. The event, organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), was moderated by the Mr. Nitin Desai, Deputy Secretary-General of the 1992 Rio Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and Secretary General of the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). One of the selected partnerships featured in the Forum was the UNITAR/ILO/OECD-supported “WSSD Global Partnership for Capacity Building to Implement the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals” (GHS).

The GHS Partnership was introduced with a short video that illustrated the importance of labelling chemicals to avoid tragic accidents. Speaking on behalf of the three partners, Mr. Achim Halpaap, Associate Director and Head, Environment Unit, UNITAR, pointed out that the GHS - which was initiated at the Rio Summit in 1992 - has advanced the worldwide use of classification and labeling of chemicals, while the Partnership which was initiated in 2002 focused on capacity development in developing countries. Mr. Halpaap highlighted that through the partnership, a number of important results have been realized, including:
•    26 country-based projects have been implemented;
•    11 regional workshops with 94 participating countries;
•    8 peer-reviewed guidance documents and training packages produced and    translated into many languages;
•    over 85 different GHS awareness raising materials developed and translated (more than 65,000 units distributed);
•    more than 8,000 individuals trained; and
•    over US $8 million raised to support action.

Factors of success included a flexible approach recognizing activities of diverse actions, regular meeting of Partners, and annual reporting of progress made. Mr. Halpaap concluded by thanking the core donors for GHS capacity development over the past ten years, Switzerland and the European Union, for their support.

One of the first African countries that undertook action to implement the GHS action plan was Zambia. Mr. Joseph Sakala, Acting Director of the Zambia Environmental Management Agency highlighted that with support of the GHS partnership, Zambia implemented a multi-sectoral process in 2001-2003 which includes a GHS situation and gap analysis and resulted in the development of a national standard for labeling chemicals. Factors affecting the success of the project included a multi-sectoral and stakeholder approach, integrating experience and lessons learned from previous projects in the area of chemicals management, as well as leadership of dedicated staff. Currently, Zambia is implementing a two-year project for GHS training and implementation with support of the Quick Start Programme Trust Fund of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

In conclusion, UNITAR, ILO and OECD remain committed to further develop this work, as well as share experiences and best practices with other Partnerships and interested stakeholders.  There is still much work to do in the second decade of the Global GHS Partnership. But we are confident, as with the first ten years, that the Partnership will make an important contribution to the post-2015 development agenda, as it has done for Agenda 21. It is helping, in the language of Rio+20, to continue to contribute to the future we want.  The GHS and its Partnership can truly be considered one of the success stories “from Rio to Rio’’.

Video courtesy of the Swedish Chemical Agency.

For further information please visit: http://www2.unitar.org/cwm/ghs_partnership/index.htm or http://www.unitar.org/cwm/ghs or write to: gpghs<at>unitar.org