The Global Framework on Chemicals (GFC) and the Bonn High-Level Declaration on Chemicals and Waste adopted: Implications for ILO

The ILO attended and organized the participation of tripartite constituents in the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5), from 25 to 29 September 2023, in Bonn, Germany.

Noticia | 5 de octubre de 2023
Contacto: labadmin-osh@ilo.org
After decades of conceptualization, and many days of intense negotiations in Bonn, the conference was able to adopt two key documents:
  • Global Framework on Chemicals (GFC)
  • the Bonn High-Level Declaration on Chemicals (which provides a high level call to action for the GFC).

In the high level segment, Assistant Director General Manuela Tomei shared a video message
The aim of the GFC is to prevent or, where prevention is not feasible, minimize harm from chemicals and waste to protect human health, including that of workers.

Workers are among those most exposed to hazardous chemicals. Of these, more than 1 million workers lose their lives due to hazardous chemical exposures, while countless others suffer from debilitating diseases and lifelong disabilities.

The ILO and its constituents were able to successfully negotiate and secure critical text in the documents to promote labour sector engagement, and key ILO principles related to decent work, just transition, occupational safety and health, due diligence, a direct reference to inclusion of a safe and health working environment as a fundamental principle and right at work. The framework also includes direct reference to international labour standards.

Overall this marks an important win for the world of work and will ensure that key ILO principles such as decent work and social justice will be mainstreamed into global processes involving sound chemicals and waste management by high level multisectoral stakeholders.

The ILO's Joaquim Pintado Nunes (Branch Chief, LABADMIN/OSH), joins a high-level panel with representatives from UNITAR, UNDP, UNIDO and WHO. (Photo by IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis)
In addition to the negotiations towards the Framework, the ILO was involved in a number of high level panels and side events:

Key elements in the Global Framework on Chemicals

It was agreed that the overall aim of the framework should explicitly reference workers in the introduction: “The aim of the framework is to prevent or, where prevention is not feasible, minimize harm from chemicals and waste to protect the environment and human health, including that of vulnerable groups and workers.”

The aim of the framework is to prevent or, where prevention is not feasible, minimize harm from chemicals and waste to protect the environment and human health, including that of vulnerable groups and workers."

Global Framework on Chemicals

Specific reference is made to the Just Transition as a "Principle and Approach" of the Framework: "The shift to sustainable production can have unintended impacts on communities, health and livelihoods. A just transition towards an environmentally sustainable economy with the sound management of chemicals and waste contributes to the goals of decent work for all, social inclusion, protection of human rights and the eradication of poverty."

There is explicit acknowledgement of the critical nature of enhanced engagement with the labour sector: "Sound management of chemicals and waste in the world of work is essential for protecting workers, communities and the environment. A safe and healthy working environment is a fundamental principle and right at work; therefore, all workers should be protected from hazardous chemicals and waste, along the entire supply chain. Workplace measures and policies, including the ratification and implementation of relevant International Labour standards, should be integrated in chemicals and waste management efforts."

This section on enhanced sectoral engagement also explicitly references due diligence: "Industry and the private sector should conduct due diligence to ensure that international standards, including International Labour Organization (ILO) standards, on health and safety in the management of chemicals and waste are put in place throughout their value chains to protect health and respect human rights."

There is a target dedicated specifically to OSH:
  • "Target D7 – By 2030, stakeholders implement measures and strive to ensure effective occupational health and safety practices as well as environmental protection measures in all relevant sectors and throughout the supply chain."
The Annex provides a framework for principles and approaches to follow, and all ILO standards on OSH and chemicals are referenced as well as relevant guidelines (e.g., Just Transition).

Manal Azzi, OSH Team Lead, speaks at the ILO side event for ICCM5. (Photo by IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera)