World: Closure of the 5th International Conference on Chemicals Management

  October 4, 2023

Bonn, September 30, 2023 – At the close of the 5th International Conference on Chemicals Management, held from September 25 to 29, 2023, the States Parties to the Conference adopted a new guidance document for chemicals management, which includes highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs).

Entitled “Global Framework on Chemicals – For a planet free of harm from chemicals and waste”, the new Framework enshrined 28 concrete objectives for the sustainable management of chemicals and wastes. Among these objectives, the States Parties committed to phase out HHPs in agriculture where risks have not been managed and where safer and affordable alternatives exist, and to promote the transition to and availability of these alternatives. A horizon of 2035 has been set for this objective, which commits not just governments but all stakeholders, recalling the role of industry and civil society in the transition to a sustainable agricultural model. The Strategic Approach adopted at the first Conference in 2006 already invited States to work jointly on the development of alternatives to reduce and phase out highly toxic pesticides (article 8(h) of the Global Plan of Action). The updated Approach therefore merely sets a time-bound target for the elimination of HHPs.

Government representatives also promised, by 2030, to strive to notify or regulate or ban the export of chemicals that they have banned at the national level, in accordance with their international obligations. Finally, by 2030, governments have affirmed their commitment to implement policies and programs to increase support for safer and more sustainable agricultural practices, including agroecology, integrated pest management and the use of non-chemical alternatives, where appropriate.

The States Parties also adopted the Bonn Declaration, in which they affirmed more generally their desire to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals, phase out the most harmful where appropriate, and improve the safe management of such chemicals where necessary.

While the United Nations, and in particular the United Nations Environment Programme, have welcomed the adoption of this new Global Framework, some representatives of civil society, such as the environmental NGO Pesticide Action Network, point to a lack of ambition given the reality of pollution resulting from the use of pesticides and the resulting dangers to human health and the environment.

Nonetheless, the new Global Framework reflects a more favorable trend towards reducing, or at least controlling, the use of HHPs. However, it should be remembered that the Global Framework, like the Strategic Approach, is not an internationally binding agreement. Effective protection of our health and environment from the risks and damage posed by HHPs therefore still depends on national political will.