Nanotechnology

Overview

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. With numerous nano-containing products available in the market, there is a need to prepare appropriate regulations and safety standards.

To address the global challenges, nano has been included as key topic under the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). The third International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM3) invited “relevant international organizations... such as UNITAR, to continue to support efforts to facilitate capacity-building information exchange, develop guidance and training materials and support public dialogue regarding nanotechnologies and manufactured nanomaterials".  

Working under the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC), UNITAR has implemented, since 2009, a range of activities to support developing countries in raising 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, Asia-Pacific, Central and Eastern European, and Latin American 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 the original 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 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.

2015-2016 Activities (so far)

e-Learning courses

Since 2014, UNITAR has coordinated three e-Learning courses: Introduction to Nanomaterials Safety. These took place in May-June 2014, October-December 2014 and October-December 2015. A fourth round of the course is anticipated during 2016.

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, Russian and Spanish. For national, regional and general training activities, UNITAR is supported by a network of experts from around the world.

Opportunities

UNITAR is committed to working with national, regional, and global partners to help address challenges related to nano. Capacity development services under consideration (resources permitting) include:

  • Coordination and organisation of additional regional workshops on nanosafety
  • Implementation of additional nano country projects
  • Collaboration with regional networks of nano experts, as proposed at the 2015 regional meetings
  • Further public awareness raising (e.g. through UNITAR’s nano e-Learning course) and briefing sessions
  • Revise and update the guidance document “Developing a National Nanotechnology Policy and Programme”
  • Continue and enhance collaboration with OECD on nano, as well as other IOMC Participating Organizations

Partners

UNITAR would like to acknowledge the collaboration with the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), and the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC). UNITAR is also grateful for the financial contributions and programmatic support of the Government of Switzerland.  

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