Opening statement at negotiations on chemicals & waste (BRS COPs): Clean planet, healthy people!

Photo credit: BRS MEAS

WECF, Women Engage for a Common Future, would like to take the opportunity of thanking the BRS secretariat for their excellent organisation of the BRS COPs. We would like to thank also the Government of Switzerland for once again hosting this important meeting.

We are grateful for the opening words of the Government of Switzerland, pointing out the loss of biodiversity and the poisoning of people by use of hazardous pesticides. This made once more obvious, how important it is, to urgently move forward in the sense of the conventions.

WECF International is a global network of over 150 participating civil society organisations in 50 countries working to reduce and replace the use of hazardous chemicals in products, production and waste, focusing especially on protecting women and children from the impact of hazardous chemicals. WECF is implementing projects in frame of the BRS Convention and is advocating for better protection in its role as Co-Coordinator of the Women Major Group.

It is common knowledge that women and men are impacted differently by chemicals and through different routes. Exposure to toxic chemicals damages not just women’s physical, mental and reproductive health but also determines their status in their society. Often women suffering from, for example reproductive damages due to chemical exposure are subject to domestic violence, mental abuse and social exclusion.

We appreciate that taking gender equality into account in frame of the upcomming negotiations was mentioned several times in the opening speeches. We recognise that a gender action plan has been developed under the Synergy process. However, we feel that there is need to improve and to take into account the critical impacts of chemicals on women’s bodies and lives.

While, the Stockholm Convention addresses women specifically the implementation is still lacking.

Women are still underrepresented in decision-making about chemical safety, waste, and environment. This creates an imbalance of power and injustice that must be corrected. Women have also been under-represented or not represented at all in studies concerning chemical exposures and health outcomes. Gender disaggregated data is needed to understand different vulnerabilities based on biology, occupations, and gendered practices. There is also a gap of gender justice financing mechanisms.

This week delegates will decide on adding new chemicals to the Stockholm Convention, such as PFOA and dicofol.

PFOA and PFOS are readily detectable in the plasma of pregnant women, in cord blood, and in neonatal blood spots. In some countries women make up 85 per cent or more of the pesticide applicators on commercial farms and plantation, often working whilst pregnancy and breastfeeding. They are highly exposed to pesticides such as dicofol. The majority at various stage of textile chain, a source of exposure to PFOA and PFOS, are women.

Thus, gender mainstreaming into each step of sound chemicals and waste management decisions at the national and international levels is crucial for achieving effective and inclusive processes. Gender considerations should be part of project planning, design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation, which will help avoid inequality between women and men and better address ways to minimize chemical exposures for all.

In the next two weeks, each delegate will be faced with a decision – be it establishing standards for low POPs content, listing of new chemicals or granting exemptions to toxic chemicals. We urge the delegates to use their conscience and make decisions based on good science, precaution and a vision of a toxic free future for all.

Photo credits: Vlad, BIOM

About BRS COPs 2019

The fourteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (BC COP-14), the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention (RC COP-9) and the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention (SC COP-9) were held back to back from 29 April to 10 May 2019, in Geneva. The theme of the meetings was “Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste”. The meetings included joint sessions covering matters of relevance to at least two conventions and separate sessions of the meetings of the each of the three COPs. The meetings did not feature a high-level segment.

The meetings, attended by about 1,400 participants, from 180 countries, adopted 73 decisions, including seven identical decisions for the three meetings on: international cooperation and coordination, cooperation between the joint Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions and the Secretariat of the Minamata Convention, the clearing-house mechanism for information exchange, synergies in preventing and combating illegal traffic and trade in hazardous chemicals and wastes, “from science to action”, dates and venue of the next meetings of the conferences of the Parties and existing United Nations guidelines on the mobilization of resources from non-state actors.