The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) is a voluntary initiative to help countries manage chemicals within their borders to reduce the harmful impact of chemicals on human health and the environment. It does not affect the interpretation or application of rights and obligations, including their interpretation and application, which governments have undertaken in binding international agreements, such as the Montreal Protocol, or other international fora, such as the World Trade Organization. SAICM thus builds upon already agreed approaches to chemicals management and science-based risk assessment, and seeks to build the capacity of developing countries and economies in transition to safely manage chemicals.

Previous negotiations on chemicals management were focused on specific categories, such as ozone-depleting or persistent organic pollutants. International negotiators recognized the need to address a range of other chemicals through a mechanism other than a legally binding instrument for each such chemical. Thus, at the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM) held in Dubai , United Arab Emirates (www.chem.unep.ch/saicm/), held in February 2006 negotiators agreed on a "Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management" (SAICM).

The Assistant Secretary of State Claudia McMurray served as a vice president at the conference and to support SAICM implementation, the U.S. Government initially contributed $200,000. Future contributions will consist of technical assistance to developing countries.

"SAICM ... is a flexible framework that allows countries managing the risks associated with some chemicals to tailor approaches to their individual needs. SAICM recognizes that while we all share the goal of minimizing the risks presented by some chemicals, there are many valid ways to achieve that goal." - Claudia A. McMurray (Assistant Secretary of State)

The negotiation brought together more than 100 governments and a wide range of international organizations and stakeholder representatives and resulted in three documents:

1) The "Dubai Declaration," a high-level Declaration which expresses the commitment to SAICM,

2.)The Overarching Policy Strategy, which outlines the scope and objectives of SAICM, and

3) A "Global Plan of Action," a working tool and guidance document which sets out proposed "work areas and activities" for implementation of the Strategic Approach.

SAICM aims to ensure the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle. There are no specific reduction targets or quantitative goals. Rather, SAICM articulated a number of qualitative objectives, including:

• Reducing the risk to human health and the environment associated with chemicals,

• Ensuring that knowledge and information about chemicals and chemicals management are sufficient to enable chemicals to be adequately assessed and managed safely throughout their life cycle,

• Promoting appropriate governance of chemicals through actions such as domestic enforcement of laws, coordination between relevant departments that deal with chemicals, and inclusion of a variety of stakeholders, such as civil society, in domestic processes,

• Building capacity in developing and transitional economies to safely manage chemicals,

• Fostering technical cooperation on how to manage chemicals safely,

• Preventing illegal international traffic in chemicals, a potential problem in countries that lack effective management strategies.

The scope of SAICM covers agricultural and industrial chemicals throughout their life-cycle, but explicitly excludes products such as food additives and pharmaceuticals that are regulated by a domestic food or pharmaceutical authority, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.