An inspiring Future Policy Award Ceremony 2021 celebrated the world’s most impactful policies on protection from hazardous chemicals

What an exciting event we held on 6th July: The World Future Council is truly proud about the Future Policy Award Ceremony 2021, at which our “Oscar for best policies” distinguished five truly exemplary policies protecting people and the environment from hazardous chemicals!

Among the winners were policies from Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Sweden that effectively minimise the adverse effects of exposure to chemicals on human health and the environment. Two Gold winners and three Special Awards winners were selected from 55 nominated policies from 36 countries.

Unlike the previous years, the winning policies of the Future Policy Award 2021 were celebrated with a virtual ceremony, held in Hamburg, Germany, on July 6, 2021, and had over a thousand viewers, including the awardees from across the globe. Moderated by Jennifer Sarah Boone, the event was opened by Alexandra Wandel, the Executive Director of World Future Council, who provided insights about the Future Policy Award (3:40) and with speeches by Prof. Dr Dirk Messner, President of the German Environment Agency (UBA), and Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, Director of the Economy Division of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). (7:00) “Chemicals and chemical waste are a big topic, and we cannot treat them as a side aspect if we want to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. We need to have more political attention for the topic of chemicals and chemical waste; the Future Policy Award makes an exciting contribution to generating this kind of attention,” said Prof. Dr Messner, President of the German Environment Agency (UBA).

The presentations of the awardees were opened with a beautiful song, “We are one,” from MaximNoise and Nicole Milik, who are both passionate musicians and support the good cause of the 2021 Future Policy Award (13:00).

Special Award for Colombia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka

Colombia’s Resolution 371 Establishing the elements to be considered in the Management Plans for the Return of Pharmaceutical Products and Expired Medicines (2009) received the first Special Award in the “Environmentally Persistent Pharmaceutical Pollutants” category. The Resolution’s remarkable feature is that it places the responsibilities and costs of implementation on the manufacturers and importers of pharmaceuticals and medications, in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle. Providing the congratulatory speech, Mr Nikhil Seth, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNITAR, acknowledged Resolution 371 as the true pioneer in the region and applauded Colombia and all stakeholders for the effective implementation of the policy. The Award was delightfully accepted by H.E. Carlos Eduardo Correa, Colombia’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development. (19:50)

Speech by Sri Lanka’s Minister of Health, Nutrition, and Indigenous Medicine, H.E. Pavitra Devi Wanniarachchi

The Philippines’ Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds (CCO, 2013-24) won the second Special Award in the Category “Lead in Paint.” The Philippines is the first Southeast Asian country to successfully implement legislation towards lead-safe paint. Acknowledging the importance of risk reduction of lead, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Mr Masamichi Kono, congratulated the Philippines and all stakeholders that contributed to the successful implementation of the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds (28:00). The Award was received by the Secretary of the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), H.E. Ret. General Roy Cimatu. (3:00)

The final Special Award went to Sri Lanka’s Pesticides Act and National Policy for Suicide Prevention under the Category “Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs).” Thanks to the policies Sri Lanka has been successful in banning a total of 36 HHPs, which has saved about 93,000 lives over 20 years at a direct government cost of less than USD 50 per life. The Award was received by Sri Lanka’s Minister of Health, Nutrition, and Indigenous Medicine, H.E. Pavitra Devi Wanniarachchi and Minister of Agriculture, H.E. Mahindananda Aluthgamage. (38:40) In her congratulatory speech Prof. Dr Vandana Shiva, who is an internationally well renowned environmental and social activist from India and a Founding Councillor of the World Future Council, highlighted that thanks to these policies suicide rate has been reduced by an impressive 70 per cent.

Gold for Kyrgyzstan and Sweden!

Kyrgyzstan’s Resolution No. 43 won the Gold Award for being one of the few countries in the world to make the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) legally binding.  Kyrgyzstan’s Resolution No. 43 won the Award in the Fourth Category, “Chemicals Across the Lifecycle.” and was commended by Prof. Dr Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, who is an expert jurist, Senior Director of the Center for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL) and a Founding Councillor of the World Future Council. Delivering a speech on behalf of Kyrgyzstan’s Deputy of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Minister of Economy and Finance, the First Deputy Minister of Economy and Finance H.E. Daniiar Imanaliev expressed gratitude to the World Future Council for recognizing Resolution No. 43 in the prestigious Future Policy Award 2021. He also expressed their readiness to share their experience with others to create a toxic-free world.

Unlike all the other 2021 Awards that went to national policies, the second Gold Award was won by the Swedish Region Stockholm for its Phase-Out List for chemicals hazardous to the environment and human health in the same category, “Chemicals Across the Lifecycle.” The policy is credited for phasing out a significant proportion of hazardous chemicals since 2012, especially in the health sector. Presenting the laudatory speech for the awardee, Co-founder and Honorary Councillor of the World Future Council, Prof. Dr Michael Otto commended the Region Stockholm for taken bold action against the use of harmful chemicals and for safeguarding children’s health. (1:00:02) On behalf of Region Stockholm, the Award was received by the Regional Chair for Environment and Transport, Mr. Tomas Eriksson, and Regional Chief Executive, Mrs. Carina Lundberg Uudelepp. (1:03:50)

The Way Forward for the Future Policy Award

Following the award presentations, the Ceremony was also graced with speeches from Dr Auma Obama, Founder and Director of the Sauti Kuu Foundation, and Councillor of the World Future Council, Ms Kehkashan Basu, Founder and President of the Green Hope Foundation and currently the youngest Councillor of the World Future Council, and Mr Jakob von Uexkull, Founder for both the World Future Council and Alternative Noble Prize, who congratulated the awardees for their commitment towards saving millions of lives and protecting critical environmental resources.

Concluding remarks by Alexandra Wandel at Future Policy Award Ceremony
Concluding remarks by Alexandra Wandel, Executive Director of the World Future Council © Markus Mielek Future Policy Award

In her concluding remarks, the Executive Director of World Future Council, Alexandra Wandel, reiterated a commitment to continue spreading knowledge about these impactful policies. Asked about what theme will be considered for the next award, she revealed that “the topic is decided by our Council that will be having its annual general meeting in October. During that meeting, they will certainly decide on a highly relevant topic. Once the topic is selected, we will, of course, inform our friends and supporters.” Finally, she thanked all partners, supporters, nominators, experts, and consultants who evaluated the policies and other stakeholders who contributed to the Future Policy Award 2021. The Award Ceremony, which included beautiful artistic contributions such as a stand-up speech by comedian and science journalist Dr Eckart von Hirschhausen, a lead-free painting by NY-based illustrator George Bates and a slam poetry by Berlin-based author Naniso Twsai, ended with a beautiful song cover from the Young ClassX, “Imagine”.

This article was written by Benjamin Dosu Jnr, Ph.D., Volunteer of the World Future Council and Research Assistant, University of Lethbridge.

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