Least developed countries (LDCs) and small-island developing states (SIDS) in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are among the poorest in the world.

Clear links have been established between poverty and increased risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals and waste. The poor routinely face unacceptably high risks because of their occupations, living situations and lack of knowledge about the detrimental impacts of exposure to these chemicals and wastes. But despite the direct relationship between sound management of chemicals, the protection of human health and the environment, and the prevention of poverty, these links are often overlooked in development planning and prioritisation.

Despite completing their National Implementation Plans (NIPs), the countries in the ECOWAS sub-region lack the administrative capacity to design activities to sustain their global role in the elimination and reduction of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). Therefore a regional programmatic approach is needed to support collective action, build national capacity, and enhance mainstreaming of chemicals issues into the work of national governments.

Based on extensive regional and sub-regional consultations and review of countries’ NIPs, UNEP and UNIDO have identified six areas in which these countries require assistance. These are: legislative and regulatory reform; enforcement and administrative capacity; information exchange and dissemination; identification of contaminated land; reduction of exposure to POPs and Unintentionally-produced POPs (UPOPs) at workplaces and from open waste burning; and the introduction of Best Available Techniques/Best Environmental Practices in industrial production processes.

It is necessary to increase the capacity of key government agencies, provincial level government staff, agricultural workers, academia, research institutes and the private sector, as well as participating civil society stakeholders – specifically at the community level. Furthermore, awareness among judiciaries is required to increase understanding of environmental law and the chemicals and wastes Conventions. The Basel and Stockholm Convention Regional Centre in Dakar (BSCRC–FA) is the executing agency, while Green Cross Switzerland is the co-executing agency (assistance, financial and contractual management).

FAO and ECOWAS will jointly organize regional trainings on obsolete pesticides inventories and PSMS training, as well as undertaking national obsolete pesticides inventories.

Access to information and the capacity to exchange it among various countries and stakeholders play an important role in the implementation of various conventions such as the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. The Chemical Information Exchange Network (CIEN) is a way to enhance countries’ capacity to collect and share information and thus support national decision-making for the environmentally sound management of chemicals. CIEN provides a national platform for accessing chemical information and facilitating its exchange.