24 Jan 2024

UNEP 2.0 ad hoc Open-Ended Working Group Science-Policy Panel Further Contributes to the Management of Chemicals, Waste and Pollution Prevention

Michelle Bloor, University of Glasgow

There was a buzz in the air at UNEP’s 2.0 ad hoc Open-Ended Working Group (2.0 OEWG) Science-Policy Panel for the Continued Sound Management of Chemicals, Waste and Pollution Prevention (SPP CWP), which took place between 11–15 of December 2023, in Nairobi, Kenya. This was the third OEWG SPP CWP meeting, which followed meetings in Nairobi and online in October 2022 and Bangkok, Thailand, in February 2023. The 2.0 OEWG meeting had an ambitious agenda and package of documents, which included topics such as the principles of operation, conflict of interest, capacity building, operational structures and budget. As the meeting drew to a close, progress had been made towards the establishment of the science-policy panel; however, the pressure is still on as there is still a great deal of work to do before the June 2024 deadline.

SETAC is accredited to UNEP’s Scientific and Technical Major Group and has engaged with the OEWG process from the start as outlined in a Globe article from last February. Of course, the OEWG is a governmental process, but stakeholders such as SETAC are encouraged to actively engage in the process by providing input and evidence during the intersessional periods, participating in webinars, providing feedback on OEWG documentation, providing statements on the meeting topics, undertaking verbal interventions in the contact groups and plenary, and engaging in bilateral discussions with member states. However, there has been a clear call for stakeholders to engage with each other and, when possible, to develop joint statements and interventions on areas of consensus.

SETAC’s Advisory Panel on Chemicals Management (SETAC CheM Panel) was appointed in 2022 by the SETAC World Council to provide advice on SETAC’s input into activities around OEWG. In preparation for 2.0 OEWG, the SETAC CheM Panel produced a written statement that focused on SETAC’s recommendations based on four themes: global issues have local impacts and solutions, capacity building needs, prioritization must be transparent and based on scientific evidence, and a conceptual priority setting framework that was developed by the SETAC CheM Panel for the OEWG process.

From 9–10 December 2023, SETAC was able to participate in a series of pre-meetings before the start of 2.0 OEWG, which included an informal discussion of the meeting topics with member states and a meeting of UNEP’s nine Major Groups (scientific and technical community, non-governmental organizations, farmers, Indigenous peoples and their communities, local authorities, women, business and industry, children and youth, and workers and trade unions). During the meeting of the Major Groups, it became clear that many of the stakeholders present at the meeting held the same position on capacity building, which was a key topic during the 2.0 OEWG meeting. It was therefore possible for eight of the nine Major Groups represented at the meeting to collaborate on a joint interjection on capacity building, which was prepared and presented later in the week. As the week progressed, the Major Groups had several other opportunities to collaborate on topics that arose during the negotiations, such as inclusivity, equity and conflict of interest, which strengthened the bond between stakeholders.

As chair of the SETAC CheM Panel, I had the honor of representing SETAC at 2.0 OEWG meeting. In addition to making verbal interventions on SETAC’s behalf, I also made a collaborative intervention on behalf of several Major Groups and NGO’s during the conflict of interest negotiations. As I reflect on 2.0 OEWG, it is clear that:

  1. Collaboration and collegiately strengthens the stakeholder voice and contribution to the OEWG process.
  2. Engagement and inclusion of stakeholders from a diverse and global background is important to develop a balanced process.
  3. Transparency, integrity, objectivity, impartiality and inclusivity are essential.
  4. Global issues have local impacts and solutions.
  5. Prioritization must be transparent and based on scientific evidence.  

There is still a lot of work to do, and I suspect that the intercessional period between December 2023 and June 2024 is going to be full of activity to move outstanding tasks to completion by the end of the 3.0 OEWG meeting scheduled for June 2024 and hosted by the Swiss government in Geneva.

Over the past year, the SETAC CheM Panel has held special sessions at SETAC meetings in Europe, Australasia, Latin America, Africa and North America to engage with the membership and undertake a consultation on chemicals management. Special sessions are also planned in 2024 at the SETAC Europe’s 34th Annual Meeting in Seville, Spain, and the SETAC Asia Pacific’s 14th Biennial Meeting in Tianjin, China.

SETAC has established an Affinity Group for the Panel on Chemicals Management (CheM). If you are interested in getting involved, please follow the instructions to join the group. Participation in an Affinity Group is open to everyone, and we will provide regular opportunities to engage in the CheM activities process through this forum.

 Author’s contact: [email protected]




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