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A Toxics-Free Future


Science-Policy OEWG-2 Interventions

Opening Intervention

Presented by Sherika Whitelocke-Ballingsingh, Caribbean Poison Information Network, December 11, 2023

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I am from CARPIN in Jamaica, my name is Sherika Whitelocke-Ballingsingh, speaking on behalf of IPEN, an international network of over 600 civil society organizations from 127 countries. 

Access to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, including a safe and healthy working environment, is a universal human right, as are science-based policies to protect the human rights of individuals and communities exposed to hazardous substances.

We thank the secretariat for providing several useful documents for this OEWG and look forward to participating effectively  in this week's discussions. 

We have a few brief initial reflections, we would like to present for your consideration. 

Firstly, we appreciate the provision on transparency of decision-making processes. This transparency will be vital also for the working processes laid out under institutional arrangements. We therefore ask you to consider explicitly mentioning this transparency also in the beginning of this section. 

Secondly, we support the establishment of an Interdisciplinary Expert Committee. It would be helpful to include a note in this section that lack of full scientific certainty should not prevent the development of policies to protect human health and the environment, mirroring Article 8 under the Stockholm convention.

We welcome the elements related to broad stakeholder participation. Participation should be inclusive and interdisciplinary, to ensure a wide range of expert voices are heard.

Finally, it is vital for the credibility of the future Science policy panel and its subsidiary bodies that robust conflict of interest policies are in place throughout the different work processes, including for experts of the panel and also for partnerships and for relationships with stakeholders. Its work and decision-making processes must be transparent and impartial. 

Thank you Madam Chair.


Intervention on Operating Principles in support of the precautionary principle

Presented by Therese Karlsson, PhD, IPEN Science Advisor

There is a lot of experience integrating the precautionary approach into scientific assessments under other science-policy work – for chemicals this is for example common practice under the Stockholm convention.

But I understand that it might not be obvious to everyone how specifically this could be integrated so just to provide some context three examples of how this could be integrated are:

In risk communication- through clearly communicating the level of uncertainty associated with the scientific assessments. Transparency is crucial to ensure that decision-makers and the public are aware of the limitations of the available data and the potential risks

Through the use of conservative assumptions. – when data is limited the panel may consider using conservative assumptions and models that err on the side of caution. This is especially important for the horizon-scanning part of the work. 

The inclusion of vulnerable groups- When scientific data is limited, the precautionary approach can be applied consider using conservative assumptions and models that err on the side of caution. This approach helps account for potential risks that may not be fully understood or quantified.

But I also heard that we might not want to separate it entirely from the other Rio principles so we could also consider “incorporating the Rio principles, including the precautionary approach as stated in principle 15---"