Promotion of the chemical safety and raising the involvement of civil society in decision making on chemical safety issues are the main goals of the Czech-Belarusian project called “Strengthening public participation on environmental decision making and SAICM implementation in Belarus”. Czech Arnika Association and Belarusian Center of Environmental Solutions brought together their effort to strengthen the dialogue between decision makers and groups directly affected by specific chemical safety problems and to implement SAICM objectives.
The project enables to establish of an informal network of civil society organizations working on chemical safety issues and informational NGO centre on chemical safety and waste issues, providing support to public. Collaboration of NGOs is going to result in a list of national priorities connected to the chemical safety as a basis for negotiation with decision makers and following advocacy campaign. Chemical analyses of the environment affecting selected vulnerable groups are supposed to facilitate the effort. Workshops, trainings and a conference (with international experts) on public participation and implementation of sound chemical safety strategies for civil society organizations and representatives of local communities as well as an awareness raising campaign among local population will take part of the project.
Other goal is to strengthen capacity of mothers and women in decision making processes and to improve strategies regarding protection of health and the environment, improvement of chemical safety and other sustainable development issues. Although central issues of this proposal are chemical safety, health and environment, the project recognizes the crucial role of social and economic settings behind problems the problems in these areas. The main objective builds on a premise of a strong, active and informed civil society as a basis of a democratic society that is able to reflect and address the needs of its members. Also it builds on a premise that involvement of vulnerable groups in decision making is necessary for increasing their ability to protect their health and environment and to reduce the dependence on other actors. Although central issues of this proposal are chemical safety, health and environment, the project recognizes the crucial role of social and economic settings behind problems the problems in these areas. The main objective builds on a premise of a strong, active and informed civil society as a basis of a democratic society that is able to reflect and address the needs of its members. Also it builds on a premise that involvement of vulnerable groups in decision making is necessary for increasing their ability to protect their health and environment and to reduce the dependence on other actors.
Legal framework in Belarus
Belarus has developed the National Strategy for Sustainable Development in 2004. While the objectives are often well developed, the financial means for their implementation are not spelled out. The national environmental strategy is still at a conceptual stage, but there are other nationwide programmes and plans that guide environmental policy development. Among recently designed document are the State Program of Chemicals management in Belarus, programs on energy efficiency and waste management. The Program is aimed on improvement of a chemicals management in Belarus. Another recent document is the National Plan of the Republic of Belarus for the Implementation of its Obligations under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants for the period of 2007-2010 and until 2028.
In terms of public access to environmental information and participation in environmental decision-making, Belarus has ratified the Aarhus Convention, which commits the government to developing an operational regulatory framework to ensure the effective implementation of all its provisions. However, the legislative framework for public participation in environmental decision-making is less elaborated. As a result, little is known by civil society and media organisations about public participation procedures and the rights of citizens. This directly affects the level of involvement of civil society in decision making.
The Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM) provides an overarching strategy to address problems of chemical management and safety, nationally and globally. SAICM was adopted at the International Conference on Chemical Management in Dubai 2006.
The objective of a strategic approach is to achieve the sound management of chemicals throughout their lifecycle so that, by 2020, chemicals are used and produced in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment.
The adoption of SAICM sets the stage for a worldwide movement to reform chemicals' policies and practices in every country. SAICM also provides an opportunity to help build and strengthen a global civil society movement aimed at preventing further harm to human health and to ecosystems caused by exposure to chemicals and other toxic substances.
Belarus government is active on implementation of Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and recently established with support of UNITAR a national governance framework for SAICM implementation including concrete mechanisms for multi-sectoral collaboration and stakeholder involvement. This provides a good opportunity for co-operation between civil-society organizations and local authorities. Therefore the environmental / chemical safety aspect of the project is framed by and focused on SAICM implementation in Belarus.
Our activities in Belarus are supported by the European Union and co-financed by the Czech Development Agency and Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs within the Programme of Czech Development Cooperation, and Global Greengrants Fund. Its content is sole responsibility of Arnika and Center of Environmental Solutions and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the EU and/or other co-sponsors.