In the context of the UNITAR/ILO Global GHS Capacity Building Programme, and funded by the European Union, a 3-year project to strengthen national and regional capacities to implement the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) in countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is being initiated in January 2010. The project builds on the successful first phase conducted from 2005-2007 (which trained more than 1,500 government, industry, and non-governmental beneficiaries) and will be expanded to include other key regional partners. The EU is contributing EUR 1,125,000 to the overall project cost of 1,499,605.

The UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is considered a foundation for sound chemicals management and is a logical and comprehensive approach to standardising and harmonising the classification and labelling of chemicals.  The GHS is an important tool that countries can draw upon to develop national chemical hazard communication systems by providing a basis for the establishment of comprehensive chemical safety programs. GHS implementation efforts can also serve to support the implementation of other international chemicals agreements in particular the Basel, Montreal, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, as well as the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

National capacity development activities for GHS implementation will be supported by UNITAR/ILO in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand and support activities will also take place in the People’s Republic of China. Regional capacity development activities will involve all 10 ASEAN member states, as well as China and selected countries from Central and East Asia. The activities will strengthen the foundation for a coherent and informed infrastructure to improve national chemicals management by providing the tools to facilitate a reduction in chemical pollutants and wastes released into the environment, resulting in reduced human exposure and environmental degradation.  Improved management of chemicals can also contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including reducing child mortality and improving maternal health by reducing chemicals-related disease.

A first major event  - a regional GHS conference for Southeast, East and Central Asia - is expected to take place in Beijing later in 2010.

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