Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals

Chemicals play a fundamental role in societies. However, alongside the benefits, they bring potential risks to people and the environment. Effective classification and communication schemes of hazards are key for the sound management of chemicals, but many countries do not have the legal and technical capacities in place to do so. The same chemical hazards are sometimes classified and communicated in different ways in different countries. As a result, workers, consumers, and the environment are not uniformly protected. The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) has been developed to enhance and standardize this protection, across the globe.


GHS hazard pictograms

The GHS is an internationally-agreed system that provides countries with the regulatory building blocks to develop or modify existing national programmes. It sets criteria for the classification of chemical hazards and offers protective measures through labels and safety data sheets. Following-up on Chapter 19 of Agenda 21 from the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the first official version of the GHS was endorsed by the United Nations in 2003. Since then, over 60 countries around the world have begun to implement it, partly or entirely (see for the latest information).

The GHS offers a powerful tool for the chemicals and waste multilateral environmental agreements, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and international trade.

For the latest version of the GHS official text, please visit:

UNITAR's role in the GHS

With the goal of protecting human health and the environment, UNITAR plays an active role in capacity building for countries and regions to implement the GHS, as well as in providing information and outreach on GHS at regional and international levels.

Within the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts on the GHS, UNITAR and the International Labour Organization (ILO) act as focal points for capacity building in developing countries.

In addition, UNITAR plays a central role in the following bodies:

  • UNITAR/ILO Global GHS Capacity Building Programme: provides training on classification, labelling and safety data sheets, situation/gap analyses, implementation strategies, legislation;
  • The Programme Advisory Group (PAG) for the UNITAR/ILO/IOMC GHS Training and Capacity Building Programme: reviews documents, provides guidance and ensures coordination with other hazard communication initiatives;
  • World Summit on Sustainable Development Global Partnership for Capacity Building to Implement the GHS: mobilises resources and implements specific support activities to strengthen capacities at all levels and sectors.

2016 - 2017 Activities

  • UNITAR has ongoing projects funded by the Quick Start Programme in: Bolivia; Chile; Colombia; the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala and Mexico
  • A QSP-funded project on SAICM and the GHS in Burundi started in 2016, with the opening workshop on 12 and 13 April 2016
  • The sixth session of the GHS e-Learning course took place on 27 April – 10 July 2016, with 18 participants
  • The seventh session of the GHS e-learning course took place on 26 September – 7 December 2016, with 15 participants
  • The twenty-second meeting of the PAG took place on 7 December 2016 – meeting report

UNITAR project, GHS awareness-raising in Thailand

UNITAR project, GHS awareness-raising in Thailand

Past GHS projects in ASEAN - Phase II

For more information, please follow this link

Training materials and resources


  • Developing and executing additional national and regional projects on the GHS;
  • Providing additional editions of the GHS e-Learning course, including translations to French and Spanish;
  • Delivering tailor-made GHS courses (e-Learning and face-to-face), as well as a train-the-trainer course;
  • Building and promoting partnerships with the private sector;
  • Promoting experience-sharing, information exchange and synergies.