21 Sep 2023
Venue: Palais des Nations, Room H.307-2 & Online | Webex
On the sidelines of 54th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC54), this year’s Toxic Free Talks will take place from 20 to 22 September — three days of conferences and discussions, highlighting the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, and of organizations in the struggle for the right to live in a toxic-free environment. This session discussed why practices involving chemical, toxic and polluting substances should be avoided, and highlight why it is difficult to advance alternative techniques, which could considerably improve the protection of human rights, and ensure a just transition to secure sustainable, safe and healthy environment, workplaces and society.
About this Event
Practices involving chemical, toxics and polluting substances must be based on the best available science, starting with those that substitute toxic substances with safe alternatives. Alternative techniques are often available, and more numerous than often thought. This is of primary importance for consumers and users in the industry. For the latter, workers must benefit of a just transition toward a toxic free working environment.
Every year, Union Federations raise awareness on a particular occupational health and safety issue. Workers are indeed at the frontline of exposure from mining to extraction, manufacturing, and use to disposal. Exposures are greater, longer and continued in communities downwind and downstream. As such, workers pay a high price: the International Labor Organization estimates the death of 1 million workers each year as a result of exposure to hazardous chemicals, which is one death every 30 seconds. Hundreds of millions more lose their health.
In 2022, the recognition that occupational health and safety was secured as a fundamental principle and right at work, meaning that all ILO’s 187-member states have to abide by basic legal baseline principles. Various documents and instruments address chemicals exposure at work. These are then complemented by ILO fundamental rights as the freedom of Association and collective bargaining, freedom from child and forced labor, and freedom from discrimination, which underpin what we’re doing in the workplace around chemicals and other issues.
Taking place ahead of the 5th session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5), the discussion will highlight why it is difficult to advance these alternative techniques, which could considerably improve the protection of human rights, and ensure a just transition to secure sustainable, safe and healthy environment, workplaces and society.
About the Geneva Toxic Free Talks
The Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights reports every fall to the Council and to the UN General Assembly on issues related to his mandate. The Geneva Toxic Free Talks aim to harness the opportunity of this moment of the year to reflect on the challenges posed by the production, use, and dissemination of toxics and on how Geneva contributes to bringing together the actors working in reversing the toxic tide.
On the sidelines of HRC54, this year’s Toxic Free Talks will take place from 20 to 22 September — three days of conferences and discussions, highlighting the work of the Special Rapporteur and of organizations in the struggle for the right to live in a toxic-free environment.
UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights
Deputy Director, Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI), University of Massachusetts Lowell
Technical Specialist, Occupational Safety and Health, International Labour Organization
Secretary General, Bangladesh Free Trade Union Congress (BFTUC)
Representative of Earthjustice to the United Nations in Geneva | Moderator
Livestreamed via Webex
Live in the Room.