Minamata Convention Marks a Decade of Global Commitment, Gearing up for COP5

Minamata Convention Marks a Decade of Global Commitment, Gearing up for COP5
Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary of the Minamata Convention (middle), addressing a press conference

Minamata Convention Marks a Decade of Global Commitment, Gearing up for COP5

Exactly ten years ago, on October 10, 2013, a significant stride was made in global environmental protection with the signing of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

This pivotal multilateral agreement, named after the bay in Japan where mercury contamination led to a tragic public health crisis in the mid-20th century, officially came into force in 2017.

Today, with close to 150 participating Parties, the Minamata Convention stands as a linchpin in guiding nations towards the control, reduction, and eventual eradication of mercury throughout its entire life cycle.

Reflecting on the Convention’s negotiation phase, Fernando Lugris, former Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Mercury (INC) and presently Uruguayan Ambassador to China and Mongolia, stated,

“We heard the voices of the Minamata victims, we got to see what the Minamata disease is in our eyes, and we committed to develop an instrument of a global importance that could really provide solutions, and that it should be a never again Minamata disaster”.

“Minamata changed the way we think about mercury pollution nowadays,” recollected Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a significant financial arm of the Convention.

“I understood that mercury was a problem for both the environment and the public health, a problem that needed an integrated solution. The GEF is a big believer in this kind of synergy,” added Rodriguez.

Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary of the Minamata Convention, emphasised that “through the Convention we can protect vulnerable populations, such as Indigenous Peoples, women and children, and local communities, and ensure that they have a voice, that they have a say”.

She added that,

“as we move forward to make mercury history, I hope to see more countries joining the Convention in the near future”.

Since its adoption and ratification, the Convention has reached significant milestones, including the prohibition of new mercury mines, an extended list of products and processes not to be manufactured, imported or exported, and the implementation of strict controls on emissions and releases.

Claudia Dumitru, President of the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention (COP5), underscored that ”

our journey is not over, there are crucial tasks ahead and we must remain dedicated to meeting established deadlines on various fronts”.

Inger Andersen, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, affirmed,

“We at UNEP are proud to host the Secretariat for this Convention, which protects the environment and human health from the pernicious impacts of this dangerous neurotoxin. I call on all nations and all partners to redouble their efforts at COP5 to protect human health and the environment from mercury pollution and help attain a pollution-free planet”.

The fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP5) is slated to convene from October 30 to November 3, 2023, in Geneva, Switzerland.

This gathering aims to further escalate efforts in reducing the use of mercury in industrial processes and consumer products, bolstering the execution of national action plans, renewing support to the Specific International Programme, and achieving crucial advancements in assessing the effectiveness of the Convention.

With more than eight hundred participants confirmed, including representatives from Parties, non-partied governments, intergovernmental organisations, UN bodies, and NGOs, this meeting is poised to be a substantial milestone in the global commitment to combat mercury pollution and safeguard the environment and human health.


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