Environment and human rights organizations gathered in South Africa to identify links between sound chemicals management and human rights in a workshop conducted last July 21-23, 2015 in Pretoria, South Africa.
A workshop spearheaded by Philippine-based environmental justice group BAN Toxics (BT), Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and South African group groundwork highlighted the need to integrate human rights laws when implementing chemicals management policies and practices.
“To attain global sustainable development, it is essential to acknowledge the impact of pollution from industrial and agricultural chemicals to human health and the environment. It is important to understand the connection of these two issues and make it work for communities which are most affected by toxic pollution,” says Baskut Tuncak, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Hazardous Substances and Wastes.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that unintentional poisonings from inappropriate and excessive exposure to toxic chemicals kill an estimated 355,000 people globally each year, where two thirds of these deaths occur in developing countries.
Poor nations’ vulnerability to toxic chemical contamination will increase wherein by 2020 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that nearly one third of the world’s chemical production will shift to non-OECD nations.
“It’s high time that we clearly spell out the role of human rights in addressing chemicals pollution,” says BT executive director Atty. Richard Gutierrez. “Blatant disregard to people’s health, especially those in the margins, caused by the proliferation and mismanagement of chemicals goes against the principles of equality and non-discrimination.”
The workshop identified chemicals management policies in African nations and arrive at an understanding on key human rights principles in chemicals management policies across the region. Participants also identified existing fora where human rights is being utilized to address chemicals-related issues and determined the roles of the participating organizations in its implementation.