Last updated: 03 May 2024

In the lead-up to the establishment of a science-policy panel (SPP) to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution, this series of webinars and events is organized by the ad hoc open-ended working group (OEWG) Secretariat and the Geneva Environment Network to build bridges and promote collaboration and knowledge sharing between and among stakeholders, and to raise public awareness about the OEWG preparing proposals for the establishment of the panel. The "Road to OEWG 3 Series" is organized in the lead up to the third session of the Ad hoc Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG 3) to be held from 17 to 21 June 2024 in Geneva.

Developing a Science-Policy Panel On Chemicals, Waste and Pollution Prevention

Chemicals and waste pollution is a global threat that warrants global action. As indicated in the Global Chemicals Outlook II, published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2019, the size of the global chemical industry exceeded 5 trillion USD in 2017, and is projected to double by 2030. Consumption and production are rapidly increasing in emerging economies. Global supply chains, and the trade of chemicals and products, are becoming increasingly complex. Similar trends are true for waste generation.

Scientific studies have been and are being conducted to understand the impacts of the increasing production, diversification and management of chemicals and waste. However, international policy-makers do not have yet a global mechanism to stay informed regarding the up-to-date scientific evidence, limiting their ability to identify and address these threats in a timely manner.

To minimize adverse impacts of chemicals and waste urgent ambitious and action is needed at all levels. This includes strengthening the science-policy interface through enhanced collaboration of scientists and decision-makers.

UNEA Resolution 5/8

Effectively addressing the triple planetary crisis involving climate, biodiversity, and chemicals and pollution requires an international science-based assessment to tackle such a threat. Two of these these already have the scientific basis and bodies contributing fully to the development of of the science needed to address them, namely the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

As such, in March 2022, the United Nations Environment Assembly at its resumed fifth session (UNEA-5.2) decided that a science-policy panel should be established to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution.

The establishment of a Science-Policy Panel can help strengthen the scientific basis of policies related to chemicals and waste management, and contribute to more effective and sustainable approaches to preventing pollution and protecting human health and the environment.

The panel can provide scientific expertise and guidance to policymakers on the identification, assessment, and management of hazardous chemicals and waste, as well as on the development of strategies to prevent pollution. It can also help policymakers identify and prioritize areas for research and development, and facilitate the translation of scientific findings into policy recommendations. This can help ensure that policies related to chemicals and waste management are based on sound science and take into account the diverse perspectives and interests of stakeholders.

Such a panel can also support countries in their efforts to take action, including to implement multilateral environmental agreements and other relevant international instruments, promote the sound management of chemicals and waste, and address pollution by providing policy-relevant scientific advice on issues. It can also further support relevant multilateral agreements, other international instruments and intergovernmental bodies, the private sector and other relevant stakeholders in their work.

Through its resolution 5/8, UNEA further decided to convene, subject to the availability of resources, an ad hoc open-ended working group (OEWG) to prepare proposals for the science-policy panel, to begin work in 2022 with the ambition of completing it by the end of 2024.

Ad hoc Open-Ended Working Group

UNEA resolution 5/8 decided to convene an ad hoc open-ended working group to prepare proposals for the science-policy panel. The first two sessions of the OEWG took place in Bangkok and Nairobi in 2023. The third session will take place in Geneva, in June 2024.

OEWG 3

The third session of the ad hoc open-ended working group to prepare proposals for a science-policy panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution (OEWG 3), will be held at the International Conference Center in Geneva (CICG) from 17 to 21 June 2024. The meeting will be preceded by informal, regional and stakeholder consultations, on 16 June 2024.

At its third session, the working group is expected to conclude its substantive discussions on proposals for the establishment of a science-policy panel including issues outlined in paragraphs 5 and 6 of UNEA resolution 5/8.

OEWG 2

The second meeting of the OEWG was held in person at the United Nations Environment Programme Headquarters, Nairobi, Kenya, from 11 to 15 December 2023.

  • Member States made significant progress. Following extensive discussions on Institutional Arrangements, Operating Principles, Conflict of Interest, and other work-related processes and procedures, Member States now have a better idea of the future instrument’s structure and agreed on a clear roadmap for intersessional work towards the final session, scheduled to take place in Geneva, in June 2024.
  • In her closing statement, the Chair, Gudi Alkemade, highlighted that the meeting laid the foundations to fulfill the promise made at the 5th session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), with the adoption of resolution UNEA Resolution 5/8, towards establishing this Science Policy Panel.

OEWG 1

The first session of the OEWG was held in two parts. The first part of the session (OEWG 1.1) took place in Nairobi in a hybrid format with online participation, on 6 October 2022, and the resumed first session (OEWG 1.2) in Bangkok from 30 January until 3 February 2023.

  • The ad hoc open-ended working group agreed to establish a contact group on the organization of work of the OEWG. The contact group was mandated to
    • agree on the potential dates, form and location of the second and third sessions of the working group; to identify the key issues to be considered at the second, and, where relevant, third sessions;
    • provide clear guidance to the secretariat on the intersessional work to be carried out ahead of the second session;
    • take into account the outcome of the contact group on the scope and the principal functions of the science-policy panel, and with a view to developing a draft decision to guide the secretariat in the organization of the work of the ad hoc open-ended working group.
  • That guidance should pertain to the preparation of documents for the second session, taking into account the deliberations within the contact group on the scope and the principal functions of the panel; the organization of intersessional consultations, including the main topics to be addressed; the organization of webinars and events, including the main topics to be addressed; and the other main activities to be carried out, such as surveys and the other activities proposed in document UNEP/SPP-CWP/OEWG.1/6. The contact group will be co-chaired by Jinhui Li (China) and Ana Berejiani (Georgia).

Road to OEWG 3 Series

The webinars and hybrid events, co-organized by the Secretariat of the OEWG and the Geneva Environment Network, aim at building bridges and promoting collaboration and knowledge sharing between and among stakeholders, and raising public awareness about the OEWG preparing proposals for the establishment of the panel.

Events

Other sessions in preparation to OEWG-3

Links