Academic journal article Global Governance

Governance for Sound Chemicals Management: The Need for a More Comprehensive Global Strategy

Academic journal article Global Governance

Governance for Sound Chemicals Management: The Need for a More Comprehensive Global Strategy

Article excerpt

The upcoming United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), in Johannesburg, August-September 2002, will be an important occasion to assess global progress in dealing with environment and development issues and to determine future priorities. In the aftermath of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, where new environmental issues were identified for deepened international cooperative actions, the international environmental agenda has undergone significant expansion. One of the most important of the new issues has been enhanced chemicals management, which presents a major challenge to the international community. In addition to the often severe environmental and human health effects of hazardous chemicals, the significance of the chemical industry to politically important sectors such as agriculture, industry, and trade--the products of the chemical industry are worth approximately U.S. $1,600 billion annually and account for around 13 pe rcent of world trade--ensures that chemicals regulation will continue to occupy a prominent place on the international environmental agenda for the foreseeable future. (1)

Hazardous chemicals are often divided into three categories: pesticides, industrial chemicals, and unintentionally produced by-products. Such substances are toxic--they can be poisonous, infectious, or corrosive--are often persistent, and as a result have the ability to bioaccumulate (build up in fatty tissues in individual organisms) and concentrate further or biomagnify up food chains. Emissions are almost exclusively anthropogenic in origin from a wide range of both point and diffuse sources, including agricultural use, manufacturing and use of goods, by-products of production, waste incineration, combustion, metal production, and reemissions from contaminated wastes, soil, and surface waters. Once dispersed into the environment, complete cleanup is technically extremely difficult and in some cases not even possible where negative consequences may linger extensively.

The need for concerted global action on hazardous chemicals arises from several circumstances where improved chemicals management could limit the negative environmental and human health effects of existing hazardous chemicals and prevent the future introduction of dangerous new substances. First, transboundary transport of emissions through air, water, ice, and migratory species results in widespread transnational dispersal. (2) Virtually all the world's areas and ecosystems are to some degree vulnerable, and there are many cases of substantial environmental accumulation in regions-remote from any emissions source. (3) Second, many of the activities that cause chemicals problems are governed or influenced by multiple international institutions and organizations. The connection, for instance, between environmental and human health protection and trade is very strong in chemicals management. Third, international cooperation is a way of diffusing knowledge about the problem and aiding in the identification of a lternative techniques and substitutes, which is lacking today in many (mainly) developing countries. Fourth, even if developing countries recognize the problem with hazardous chemicals and wish to initiate risk reduction measures, they often encounter difficulties in mustering adequate technical, financial, and/or human capital. Then, international activities can function as catalysts for the diffusion of such resources and lead to domestic actions that otherwise would not have been taken.

In this article we focus on international institutional attempts to reduce risks associated with hazardous human-made chemicals that pose a direct threat to human health and the environment. As such, it ties in with a broader academic interest in institutional design and the horizontal interplay between institutions operating at a similar level of social organization. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.