Gender at ICCM5

On September 25 th , 2023 the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) opened in Bonn, Germany. The week-long conference witnessed significant strides in addressing gender issues within sustainable chemicals and waste management. Simultaneously, the conference served as a platform for various events and discussions focused on women and gender. This underscored the growing recognition of the crucial role that gender equality plays in achieving a safe, healthy, and sustainable future, including concerning matters relating to chemicals, waste and pollution.

Thanks to the engagement and advocacy work of various women’s organizations and gender experts, gender equality is now one principle of the new Global Framework on Chemicals – For a Planet Free of Harm from Chemicals and Waste that was agreed in Bonn. In addition, language on gender has been included in the Bonn Declaration, and a specific resolution on gender was adopted: “Mainstreaming a gender perspective and promoting gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls in chemicals and waste management,” which includes the development of a gender action plan until the sixth session of the conference (ICCM6, 2026).

MSP institute has been involved in the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) Beyond 2020 process since 2018, dedicating its efforts to shape the discussions from a gender perspective. The team has played a pivotal role in advancing gender advocacy and championing the inclusion of gender as a foundational pillar in the new framework. At ICCM5, MSP Institute assisted in the organization and facilitation of knowledge sharing at the “women and gender” information stand and the organization of the “women and gender at SAICM” group in order to broaden the resources of gender experts working within the framework. This brought together colleagues from various stakeholder groups, sectors and parts of the world and allowed coordination of efforts towards reaching the desired agreements. In this vein, MSP Institute also supported the participation of gender expert Mrinalini Rai, founder of Women4Biodiversity.

The team also worked on the creation and presentation of the gender resolution, which reflects the collective efforts of all stakeholders to prioritize gender considerations within the new framework. The team was also happy to support the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUV) at the “High-Level Breakfast on Chemicals and Gender.

MSP Institute was particularly pleased to organize a Side Event to launch the Gender and Chemicals Partnership – G&CP which had been under preparation for the better part of 2023. Governments, international organisations, women’s organisations and gender experts, and stakeholders from civil society, science and the private sector work together in the G&CP to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in chemicals management, and to support addressing the global pollution crisis and contributing to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The partnership is now being developed further, guided by the interim Board which includes the Federal Environment Ministry of Germany, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, UNITAR, and ZDCHMSP Institute is happy to serve as the Secretariat of the G&CP.

Additionally, the above-mentioned resolution on gender was presented to the conference, and adopted by all stakeholders. The resolution, “requests the Secretariat, with the participation of interested stakeholders, to develop a gender action plan for consideration by the Conference at its next session to advance towards full, equal and meaningful participation by all women in decision-making, and to promote gender-responsive policies and mainstreaming a gender perspective in the implementation of the framework.” The inclusion of a gender action plan in the newly adopted Global Framework on Chemicals underscores stakeholders’ commitment to gender considerations as a gender action plan is a central, and proven, instrument for gender mainstreaming. This aspect of the resolution emphasizes the need for gender considerations to be made also on the national level. The resolution emphasizes this through the request for stakeholders, “to include information on progress made in mainstreaming a gender perspective in their reports to the Conference.” It also encourages all stakeholders to support interim actions towards the aforementioned goals, and “requests the Secretariat to foster collaboration, as appropriate, with secretariats of MEAs and with relevant UN agencies and programs, including UN-Women, OHCHR, and other relevant partners in the field of gender equality.”

Finally, integration of gender-specific language and considerations have been incorporated into two targets within the Global Framework on Chemicals – For a Planet Free of Harm from Chemicals and Waste. Notably, Target B5 underscores the imperative of developing and fostering education related to sustainable chemicals management with a focus on doing so while “taking into consideration a gender responsive approach.” Concurrently, Target B7 focuses on the necessity for the generating and collection of data, with a specific emphasis on data “disaggregated by sex.”

The Global Framework on Chemicals marks a significant stride in recognizing gender considerations, demonstrating an amplified commitment to inclusivity. Despite the intricacies of negotiations, the conference forged a more gender-responsive blueprint for the framework, laying the groundwork for its effective implementation.

In pursuit of consensus, challenges persist: Deliberations encountered limitations as regards more advanced gender related language, and the new framework refrains from embracing robust gender terminology. Terms such as “gender-responsive approaches” and “gender-disaggregated data” remained contentious. This shows that our path towards gender inclusivity is a dynamic one, shaped by discussions marked not only by different views but also by varying levels of expertise and knowledge. Geopolitical conflicts added further complexity, influencing conversations on critical issues like human rights and gender equality.

However, looking back to the achievements of ICCM5, MSP Institute sees the new Global Framework on Chemicals as a symbol of the future and the progress that is possible. Despite lack of unanimous endorsement for all gender considerations, a spotlight has been placed on the ongoing dialogue regarding gender equality in sustainable chemicals management. The path towards developing and implementing gender-responsive chemicals and waste management globally has come into view. MSP Institute remains encouraged and energized to build on the progress made at ICCM5 – together with colleagues from all parts of the world, all sectors, and all stakeholder groups.

Annex

Gender in the new Global Framework on Chemicals

I. Introduction

3. (…) Exposure to hazardous chemicals and waste throughout their supply chains and life cycles threatens human health and disproportionately impacts vulnerable and at-risk groups.[1]

IV. Principles and approaches

D. Groups in vulnerable situations

  1. Exposure to chemicals and waste often disproportionately affects people in vulnerable situations, including children, youth, the elderly, persons with disabilities, women, workers, migrants, farmers, people living in poverty and Indigenous Peoples and local communities. The implementation of the framework should take these groups into consideration when protecting human health and the environment.

E. Gender equality

17. Women are agents of change and are essential to addressing the issues of chemicals and waste. The framework advances gender equality through their full and equal participation and gender inclusive approaches in all aspects of the implementation of the framework, including in decision-making

V. Strategic objectives and targets

B. Targets

Target B5 – By 2030, educational, training and public awareness programmes on chemical safety, sustainability, safer alternatives and benefit of reducing chemicals and waste risks have been developed and implemented, taking into consideration a gender responsive approach.

Target B7 – By 2030, Stakeholders generate to the extent possible, and make available comprehensive and accessible monitoring and surveillance data and information on concentrations and potential exposure sources of chemicals in humans (disaggregated by sex, age, region, other demographic factors, and other relevant health determinants as feasible), other biota and environmental media.

Annex A

Issues of concern
I. Submission of information

  1. When an issue is nominated, the following information should be provided:
  2. Impacts on human health and/or the environment related to the issue, taking into account vulnerable and at-risk populations (especially women, children, youth and workers), biodiversity, ecosystems and available toxicological, ecotoxicological, environmental fate and behaviour, and exposure data;

Annex B

Principles and approaches

  1. Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, (1995)
  2. Conclusions of the Sixtieth Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, (2016)
  3. The following agreements, where applicable:
  4. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, (1979);

Gender in the Bonn declaration

  1. Chemicals often have impacts on human health, particularly on women and children. Gender equality can support the sound management of chemicals and waste.
  2. We are determined to reach our vision of a planet free of harm from chemicals and waste for a safe, healthy and sustainable future. We therefore commit in a spirit of solidarity and partnership to implement the Global Framework on Chemicals – For a planet free of harm from chemicals and waste, to increase global ambition and action, including: Agreed ad ref.

(…)

  1. Protecting human health, particularly of women and children, with special attention to early childhood; Agreed ad ref.

Gender resolution

“Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective and Promoting Gender Equality and Empowerment of All Women and Girls in Chemicals and Waste Management”

Outcome: In its resolution (SAICM/ICCM.5/CRP.12), the Conference:

  1. requests the Secretariat, with the participation of interested stakeholders, to develop a gender action plan for consideration by the Conference at its next session to advance towards full, equal and meaningful participation by all women in decision-making, and to promote gender-responsive policies and mainstreaming a gender perspective in the implementation of the framework;
  2. encourages all stakeholders to support interim actions towards the aforementioned goals;
  3. requests the Secretariat to foster collaboration, as appropriate, with secretariats of MEAs and with relevant UN agencies and programmes, including UN-Women, OHCHR, and other relevant partners in the field of gender equality, in relation to the implementation of the framework; and
  4. invites all stakeholders to include information on progress made in mainstreaming a gender perspective in their reports to the Conference.

[1] Workers, farmers, women, children and youth, indigenous people, the elderly.

Tatiana Fett & Minu Hemmati, January 2024


Click here to download:

https://gender-chemicals.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/01.22.2024-Blog-Gender-at-ICCM5_pdf_2.pdf

Gender and Chemicals at the 2nd meeting of the SAICM intersessional process in Stockholm, March 2018

Gender and SAICM Beyond 2020 – An Occasional Newsletter

The 2nd Intersessional Meeting of the SAICM Beyond 2020 process took place March 13-15, 2018 in Stockholm, Sweden. Anna Holthaus of the MSP Institute was there, working to increase attention on gender and chemicals issues, providing information and suggestions on how to integrate gender in a future policy framework on chemicals and waste.

SAICM Beyond 2020:
Adopted by the First International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM1) on 6 February 2006 in Dubai, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) is a policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world. It is a multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral platform with a Secretariat at UNEP’s Chemicals and Waste Branch in Geneva.

SAICMs overall objective “is the achievement of the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that by the year 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health”.
At the moment, there is an intersessional processconsidering achievements so far and preparing a possible future platform for the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020.

Gender & chemicals:
There is a number of gender aspects relevant to chemicals and chemicals and waste management:

  • Gender, as a social category, is linked to gender-specific norms of behaviour, roles in society as well as the development of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ identities, which in turn influence people’s behaviour, including their impact on the environment, their ffectedness by environmental degradation, and their access to and power over resources.
  • Gender (or sex), as a biological category, shows that women’s and men’s bodies are affected differently by environmental and physical conditions such as temperature, food, or chemicals.
  • Gender analysis allows to ask questions that help us understand and unpack root causes of unsustainable behaviour and societies, and hence have a transformational potential. We need to tap into this potential in order to bring about sustainable development, justice and peace.

Before the 2nd Intersessional Meeting, the gender and chemicals project team – Minu and Anna – , started to raise awareness on gender and chemicals – via email, blog articles, on twitter and LinkedIn and even in the very traditional way of marching in the streets by joing the demonstration at the international women’s day on 8th March in Berlin, Germany.

We brought our flyers, posters and policy suggestions to Stockholm and discussed our ideas with a many different stakeholders from governments, NGOs, IGOs and industry. We felt that there is definitely interest in the issue: nearly all of our flyers and information materials was taken and we heard a lot of supportive comments in direct conversations. On the other hand, we noticed that there are gaps in knowledge about gender, its definition and its transformational potential, although the paper on gender prepared by the SAICM secretariat is a very good starting point for the basic understanding of gender and its complex interconnections to chemicals and waste.

The plenary sessions started and ended with strong statements on the importance of gender equality, e.g. by the Asia-Pacific Region and the NGO Togo Welfare on behalf of IPEN. But in between, there was not much attention being paid to gender. During discussions on the future vision, policy principles, objectives & milestones, implementation and governance, not many colleagues mentioned women’s or gender issues.
In general, there is still a way to go to develop a shared understanding of how a future framework will look like (see ENB). Chronical problems of underfunding and very little visibility and political attention also don’t help taking a integrative and mainstreaming approach.

Yet one thing is clear: for healthy people and a healthy planet we need a gender-just chemicals and waste policies! Gender has to be mainstreamed in all principles and strategic objectives, a Gender Focal point should be created and a Gender Action Plan be developed.

There is not much time left until 2020 – let’s integrate gender now!

Next stepping stones for the SAICM Beyond 2020 process include meetings at the global and regional level; many countries also hold national level meetings and stakeholder workshops. Upcoming international meetings include:

  • OEWG – February 2019*
  • 3rd Intersessional – June 2019*
  • Regional Meetings*

*Dates to be confirmed

We will continue to advocate for these and other ways of integrating gender and share information, ideas, events and policy suggestions with you – and we are always keen to hear from you about your work and your ideas on gender and chemicals!

Thank you and best regards,
Anna and Minu from the MSP Institute and the Gender & Chemicals Project

PS: If you want to join our mailing list for more Occasional Newsletters in the future, just let us know: info(at)msp-institute.org

Blog

SAICM Beyond 2020 – Integrating Gender Now !

By Minu Hemmati and Anna Holthaus, MSP Institute

(also published as a guest blog at http://blog.felixdodds.net/2018/03/guest-blogsaicm-beyond-2020-integrating.html)

With the year 2020 fast approaching, Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and its stakeholders are currently developing pathways for the international management of chemicals and waste, building and re-building the platform for Beyond 2020.  We therefore have a unique window of opportunity over the coming years to increase attention and achieve results regarding integrating gender issues.

There are various gender aspects and women’s issue relevant to chemicals, and chemicals and waste management (e.g. Hemmati & Bach 2017). Most of these issues are not receiving the attention they should in order to ensure the best possible decisions in policy-making and effective implementation.

Why Gender and Chemicals ?

  1. Gender, as a social category, is linked to gender-specific norms of behaviour, roles in society as well as the development of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ identities, which in turn influence people’s behaviour, including their impact on the environment, their affectedness by environmental degradation, and their access to and power over resources.
  2. Gender, as a biological category, shows that women’s and men’s bodies are affected differently by certain chemicals – exposure, risk, and impacts can be different between the sexes.
  3. Gender analysis allows to ask questions that help us understand and unpack root causes of unsustainable behaviour and societies, and hence have a transformational potential. We need to tap into this potential in order to bring about sustainable development, justice and peace.

 

SAICM has an agreed Overarching Policy Strategy (OPS) that sets out the scope, needs, objectives, financial considerations underlying principles and approaches, and implementation and review arrangements of SAICM as a platform and process. The OPS underlines the specific importance of women as stakeholders and their still evident lack of representation in the implementation and decision-making processes for the sound management of chemicals and chemical safety (SAICM 2012).

Yet, specific knowledge on differentiated and long-term effects of chemicals on women and men is still lacking and rarely known to delegations and stakeholders. Comprehensive gender analysis of chemicals and waste management is lacking even more.

 

How to Integrate Gender in SAICM ?

Gender Justice is essential to achieve all of the Sustainable Development Goals. The recent report about women and gender and the SDGs shows how much progress needs to be made. However, we can build on existing programs and ongoing work – the women’s and gender movement has learned a lot about gender mainstreaming, gender justice, and useful strategies and tools. Experiences close to SAICM include the Gender Action Plan of the BRS Conventions, and work on other gender and environment issues, such as climate change (e.g. UNFCCC, GenderCC), biodiversity (e.g. UNCBD), and environment in general (e.g. UNEP GGEO).

Like in many other areas, we need to increase research to obtain sex-disaggregated data, analyze gender roles and identities and how they impact our interactions with chemicals and waste along the whole life cycle.

 

Our Policy Suggestions

Developing SAICM Beyond 2020, the process is now, at the 2nd Intersessional, focusing on discussing the elements of a future platform: vision, policy principles, objectives & milestones, implementation, and governance. We have followed previous discussions and prepared suggestions to support fully integrating gender:

An overall vision for international chemicals and waste management should be ambitious and brief – like a short sentence motto, for example:

Together for chemicals without harm, or Healthy Environment, Healthy Lives for All

The vision could be accompanied by a longer sentence of explanation with reference to transformation and (gender) justice, for example:

To achieve the precautionary and sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle in ways that minimize adverse effects on human health and the environment, as an essential contribution to transformation towards justice and sustainable development

Policy principles should reiterate the gender-related aspects already included in the OPS – but should make stronger references to including women in decision-making, gender justice, and gender responsiveness of policies (building on SDG5 – gender equality), and references to equal distribution of benefits from green and sustainable chemistry (also see SDG10 – reducing inequalities within and among countries).

We suggest to include reference to women and gender when dealing with implementation and governance, including issues of capacity building, financing and decision-making at all levels. It would be important to create a Gender Focal Point in SAICM and develop a Gender Action Plan for SAICM, and to mainstream the use of Gender Impact Assessment tools.

Women and chemical safety should become a high-level issue of concern (IPEN/PAN 2017).

National Action Plans should contain a section about gender-related activities and outcomes of all chemicals, wastes and agriculture projects, and the National Action Plan process should systematically 
include women and gender experts.

 

Learning From Other UN processes

Experiences from other UN processes show that integrating gender in (primarily, and hitherto) environmental discussions is not easy. “Gender and climate – really? Is atmosphere male or female, masculine or feminine? – hahaha”! Or: “Let’s not make the climate debate broader than it needs to be by introducing such exotic social issues like gender – this will not help making progress but water down the discussion.”

These were among the responses when women’s groups and gender experts started talking about gender and climate change, in the 1990’s and then with growing force in the early 2000s.

On chemicals, we are further along in some respects. There are more data and research on women’s and men’s bodies’ reactions to chemicals, exposure patterns, health risks, and so on. But there isn’t that much work with a specific gender lens, and there isn’t enough attention to these issues. So the time is now – developing SAICM Beyond 2020 and integrating gender!

 

Your support for a gender-just chemicals future beyond2020!

We have developed suggestions on how to integrate gender in a SAICM Beyond 2020 decision. It should be included in vision, principles, objectives and milestones, implementation arrangements and governance. We are seeking to discuss these suggestions with colleagues from governments, UN and all stakeholders to discuss our ideas on how to integrate gender in SAICM Beyond 2020. Let us know what you think (contacts below) – and if you are in Stockholm for the SAICM meeting, we’re happy to have a coffee!

 

References

GenderCC – Women for Climate Justice. A global network working on a range of issues relating to mitigation and adaptation.

Hemmati, M. & Holthaus, A. 2018. Gender & Chemicals Beyond 2020. Policy Suggestions – How to Integrate Gender in SAICM Beyond 2020. Berlin: MSP Institute

Hemmati, M. & Bach, A. 2017. Gender & Chemicals: Questions, Issues, and Possible Entry Points. Berlin: MSP Institute

IPEN/PAN 2017. Beyond 2020: Women and chemical safety.

UN Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions: Gender Action Plan (integrating gender, gender pioneer awards, etc).

UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD): Gender and Biodiversity (Gender Plan of Action, Gender Mainstreaming, etc).

UN Environment Programme 2016. Global Gender and Environment Outlook (GGEO).

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): Gender and Climate Change (intergovernmental process, events, Gender Action Plan).

UN Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) 2012. Overarching Policy Strategy.

UN Women 2018: Turning Promises Into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. New York

 

Contacts

Dr Minu Hemmati, project lead, Associate, MSP Institute – minu.hemmati(at)msp-institute.org

Anna Holthaus, project coordinator, MSP Institute –anna.holthaus(at)msp-institute.org

Websites www.gender-chemicals.org / www.msp-institute.org

Follow us on twitter@GenderChemicals and @byMSPInstitute