Executive Secretary - 4th GEF Assembly - May 2010

Statement by Donald Cooper, Executive Secretary of the Stockholm Convention and co-Executive Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention, to the 4th GEF Assembly

Punta del Este, Uruguay, 25 May 2010

Mr. Donald Cooper, Executive Secretary

I would like to begin by thanking Monique Barbut and her team at the GEF Secretariat for the very productive and positive working relationship we have enjoyed over the past three years. This has been a model of interagency cooperation and I wish to express our gratitude for the extra effort we have always received in addressing POPs-related matters.

At the meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development earlier this month in New York, Governments took stock of the progress made since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 in the implementation of the chemicals and wastes chapters of Agenda 21.

A great deal has been accomplished. The global community has a much better understanding of risks posed by hazardous chemicals and how to reduce or eliminate those risks. Collective action in the form of new international agreements such as the Stockholm Convention of Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure and other activities has helped to reduce risks posed by the use of chemicals.

Even with these new initiatives much more needs to be done. All countries need to develop the chemical and waste management infrastructure to effectively utilize and enjoy the benefits of chemicals while minimizing and properly managing the associated risks. This is not a situation of one or the other.

The GEF as the principal entity of the financial mechanism of the Stockholm Convention has played a vital role in funding enabling activities, such as the development of national implementation plans, and in funding projects to help Parties meet their obligations under the Convention.

In May of last year the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention amended the Convention to add nine new chemicals. The new chemicals covered by the Stockholm Convention increase the total to 21. They also expand the scope of the type of chemicals covered by the Convention into industrial chemicals that are still widely used across the globe and which presents new chemicals management challenges.

Given this, Party needs for resources to implement the Stockholm Convention will grow significantly during GEF-5.The increase in GEF funding for POPs in GEF-5 to US$ 375 million is most welcomed and appreciated. More funding will be required and Parties will need to look to additional sources. The new initiative on the Financing for Chemicals and Wastes launched by the Executive Director of UNEP in 2009 is one of these types of efforts which is very promising. All participants in the GEF Assembly are encouraged to participate in this initiative, which can be found on the UNEP web page at UNEP.org.

The wide and extensive use of chemicals is important to national economies, the production of food, the provision of energy, the alleviation of poverty and many other aspects of our daily lives. Countries must view environmentally sound management of chemicals as an integral part of their economic and social development. Chemicals management needs to be a key component of national development strategies and implementation plans. The Stockholm Convention and the other chemicals and waste Conventions are tools that Governments can use to help them responsibly address chemicals and wastes in their countries in this way.

To reach the goal of mainstreaming chemicals and waste into national development strategies, the voluntary national portfolio identification process in GEF-5 provides an opportunity for Parties to the Stockholm Convention, and the other chemicals and wastes conventions, to find ways to do so. I would encourage developing countries and countries with economies in transition to make full use of this opportunity.

Another important step is enhancing cooperation and coordination among the chemicals and waste conventions. In February of this year in Bali, the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions met simultaneously in extraordinary meetings. For the first time, the Conferences of the Parties of three conventions met together and adopted basically identical omnibus decisions covering joint services, joint management and joint activities. The synergies obtained through this will benefit all Parties in their efforts to protect their citizens and their environments from chemicals and wastes.

This synergies process now needs to extend beyond the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions to the members of the Inter-organization Programme of the Sound Management of Chemicals, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, industry groups, civil society organizations and other stakeholders. It will take a broader collective effort to meet the challenges posed by chemicals and wastes.

Finally, it will be important for a mainstream audience to understand the potential threats posed by the unsafe management of chemicals and wastes. This is why the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions have launched the "Safe Planet" campaign to raise awareness among the general public.

The recently released film "Submission: The defence of the unborn" by famed Swedish director Stephen Jarl will help to raise awareness of the chemicals load, or body burdens, that we all carry and the need to take action to reduce or eliminate our exposure to them. I understand that one of the co-stairs of the film, Prof. Ake Bergman of Stockholm University, is attending this Assembly meeting.

In closing, I would like to thank the GEF for serving well as the principal entity of the financial mechanism of the Stockholm Convention and look forward to working with them to promote a safer planet as it relates to the chemicals and waste cluster. The solutions are there, we all need to work together to reach them.