The Illegal Trade in Chemicals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals were adopted to overcome the great challenge of how to reduce poverty and protect the environment at the same time. Several goals and specific targets feature sound chemical and waste management: • Goal 3 – reducing illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination • Goal 6 – improving water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping andminimizing releases of hazardous chemicals • Goal 11 – reducing the adverse impacts of air quality and waste management • Goal 12 – achieving the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycles • Goal 14 – preventing and significantly reducing marine pollution of all kinds Several multilateral environmental agreements regulate parts of the international chemical trade, but the growth in chemical outputs corresponds with a growth in illegal trade. A 2018 report by the Strategic Approach for International Chemical Management (SAICM) – a multi-lateral and multi- sectoral policy framework to promote sound management of chemicals and waste around the world – notes that, “illegal international traffic in hazardous substances and dangerous products is a pressing problem for many countries, especially for developing countries and in countries with economies in transition.” Considering these concerns, SAICM addresses the illegal international traffic of chemicals at the highest decision- makinglevel.TheDubaiDeclarationonInternationalChemicals Management makes high-level policy commitments on preventing illegal traffic of toxic, hazardous, banned, and severely restricted chemicals and chemical products and waste (UNEP 2006a). The Overarching Policy Strategy and the Global Action Plan provide ways to meet the declaration’s commitments.

Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Development Programme, UNEP, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Commission, all equally concerned by the illegal trade in chemicals, and each supporting the policy commitments through their institutional activities. Despite these efforts, the need to build knowledge remains. The objectives of this assessment are to provide an overview of the knowledge gaps and enforcement challenges in the illegal trade in toxic, hazardous and severely restricted chemicals, especially in countries and regions with non- existent or low levels of chemical regulation, and to formulate prospective strategies and policies to combat the illegal trade in chemicals. The main chemicals of interest for this report are pesticides and mercury, both of which are subject to strong international regulations. Pesticides are commonly used by household consumers and in agriculture, and their effects on food safety and the environment touch virtually all of us. Mercury occurs in many consumer products, but its use in Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) is the main focus of the illegal trade. Although some of the chemicals covered by this assessment are extremely toxic and could potentially be used for terrorist purposes, this report does not discuss the subject of nonproliferation or chemical weapons nor does it discuss pharmaceuticals. While this report considers counterfeit chemicals as an important part of the illegal trade in chemicals, it does not fully discuss the domestic and international intellectual property rights laws that govern trade in such chemicals. This report uses “illegal” and “illicit” interchangeably to refer to violations of national or international laws or agreements. The term“informal” refers to economic activities that occur in gray areas outside the reach of routine regulations and reporting. Informal activities may simply be undocumented, but they may also be illegal. Annex 1 provides definitions for other terms used in this report.

These efforts go hand-in-hand with those of other international organizations such as the Food and Agriculture

The Illegal Trade in Chemicals


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