A decade after the agreed target year, the majority of UN member countries have not yet implemented the GHS in national legislation. As of April 2017, research shows that rules aligned with the GHS had been fully implemented in national legislation in 50 countries, partially implemented in 15 countries, and not yet implemented in 128 member countries. There is distinct regional variation in the implementation, with national implementation lacking to a striking degree in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.

Group of men working at a chemical warehouse classifying barrels. Credit: Getty/andresr

The brief examines the implementation gap and points to multiple factors underlying it. Most of these are linked either to capacity to implement a complex system such as the GHS, or to the motivations of countries to introduce the GHS in national legislation. Low regulatory capacity and low GDP per capita emerged as key factors.

The author proposes a range of measures to support implementation, including:

  • Invest in and support the regulatory capacity of low-income countries.
  • Support regional collaboration on GHS implementation.
  • Build alliances with “new” actors such as in the occupational health and safety field, trade unions, consumer organizations.
  • Implement the GHS as part of an overall chemicals-management strategy.
  • Link GHS implementation to the national Agenda 2030 efforts.

The brief draws on a recent paper published in the journal Sustainability.