The Third Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury begins with a call to strengthen implementation for the effectiveness of the Convention

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The meeting was opened yesterday at CICG in Geneva, Switzerland, with the presence of representatives from the Convention’s parties.


The third meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP3) to the Minamata Convention on Mercury opens in Geneva, Switzerland

With a call to strengthen implementation for the effectiveness of the Convention with the aim to protect the human health and the environment, the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury opened today at CICG in Geneva, Switzerland. This event brings together parties’ representatives, non-parties governments, intergovernmental organizations, UN bodies and NGOs to review the progress and challenges related to implementing the Convention in the world. Around one thousand participants are already confirmed to attend this meeting.

At the opening ceremony, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Inger Andersen, empathized the work already achieved by the 113 Parties to the Convention to respond to mercury pollution and the need to keep moving, adopting the necessary documents for the effective implementation of the Convention.

“Everyone on the planet is exposed to mercury at some level – whether through the food we eat, the air we breathe, or the cosmetics that we use. Only concerted, united action through this Convention and all of its allies can stop this toxic heavy metal endangering human and environmental health”, she stated.

The UN Environment Executive Director was joined by Marc Chardonnens, State Secretary of the Swiss Federal Office for Environment as host of the Minamata Secretariat; David Kapindula (Zambia), current President of the Conference of the Parties (COP), and Rossana Silva Repetto, Executive Secretary of the Minamata Convention.

“It is my sincere hope that we will reach universal ratification for the Minamata Convention. However, this alone will not guarantee that we make mercury history. A resolute implementation and the capacities to do so are key for actual change in practice. Moreover, in order to be sure that our convention works well, we will have to check on its effectiveness.” Chardonnens emphasized.

In the same line, the Convention’s most senior representative, Rossana Silva Repetto stressed that “the adoption of the convention is not the end but the beginning, the point of departure of a new time line, the time line that started in 2013 when the international community united and with one voice showed its determination to address the negative effects of mercury through a convention on mercury”.

Finally, the President of the COP, David Kapindula, highlighted the challenging agenda of the meeting and the need to make an effort in reaching consensus on key issues that are critical for the long-term success of the treaty. “I hope that you share my concern that we must avoid building a legacy of unresolved issues that will adversely affect our ability to achieve the objective set out in Article 1 of the Convention. And I look forward to your support and cooperation in making this, our third meeting, truly a success”, he stated and declared the third meeting of the COP open.

Back to Minamata victims

The Executive Secretary of the Minamata Convention took a moment to remember the victims of the Minamata disease by showing a wooden doll sculped by a Japanese victim, Mr. Masami Ogata. These dolls have no eyes, no nose and no mouth, because he wants that everyone completes them with their heart. Masami’s message is that the international community cannot afford a repetition of the Minamata tragedy in other parts of the world, that it is necessary to learn from the past and look to the future.

"We are Masami’s messengers! This is what we are all doing here, putting eyes, nose and mouth to Masami’s Kokeshi dolls, committing to deploy all our efforts and energy to attain the objective of the Minamata Convention, to help Masami’s dream become true, a world without the Minamata disease! A world that has left mercury and its negative effects behind, a world where mercury is history!", Rossana Silva expressed.

During the opening ceremony, Koichiro Matsunaga, a victim of the Minamata disease gave a moving speech on behalf of the Minamata disease patients.  “I came here to protect future children. Mercury affects the brain (…) I know that we, human being, make mistakes. But we must have a strong will to stop making mistakes when we realize it. Many children in the future will suffer like me if we fail to take appropriate control on mercury now. Please do not repeat what happened in Minamata in your country”, Matsunaga pointed out.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is named after the bay in Japan where, in the mid-20th century, mercury-tainted industrial wastewater poisoned thousands of people, leading to severe health damage that became known as the “Minamata disease”. Since it entered into force on 16 August 2017, 113 parties have been working together to control the mercury supply and trade, reduce the use, emission and release of mercury, raise public awareness, and build the necessary institutional capacity. Through the Minamata Convention the international community can tackle the entire life cycle of mercury.

Development of the meeting

At the plenary sessions, the official meeting documents will be discussed for the COP to make decisions on matters such as the framework for evaluating the effectiveness of the Convention, the adoption of technical guidance documents, and the work programme and budget of the secretariat for the biennium 2020-2021. The complete list of documents can be found on the COP3 webpage. The main topics that the Parties to the Convention will discuss are

  • Effectiveness evaluation of the Convention
  • Mercury-added products and manufacturing processes in which mercury or mercury compounds are used
  • Mercury waste, in particular the consideration of relevant thresholds
  • Financial mechanism
  • Implementation and Compliance Committee
  • Capacity-building, technical assistance and technological transfer
  • Venue and date of the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties

The meeting’s official activities also include 26 side events and knowledge labs that will discuss broader issues such as the linkages between chemicals management and biodiversity, chemicals and waste management beyond 2020, and global community’s efforts to protect human health and the environment from the negative effects of mercury, among others.

The meeting will play a critical role in the future of the Convention, which aims at protecting the human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury, a highly toxic heavy metal considered by the World Health Organization as one of the top 10 chemicals of major public health concern.

One week is ahead to work hard and #MakeMercuryHistory

References

The full COP3 schedule, along with general information on the meeting is available on the COP3 dedicated webpage.

You will be able to follow the development of the event on the:

Speeches

Queries regarding press coverage of the event must be made to the Communications Officer of the Minamata Convention, Anna García, Email anna.garcia@un.org; Telephone: +41 79 39 11736.

Copyright 2019 by Minamata Convention on Mercury