News from the Convention

South American sub-regional workshop in Brasilia, 2 to 4 September 2014
South American countries discussed the ratification and rapid implementation of the Minamata Convention during sub-regional workshop in Brasilia

South American sub-regional workshop in Brasilia, 2 to 4 September 2014

South American sub-regional workshop in Brasilia, 2 to 4 September 2014

To support the ratification and early implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with the generous support of the Government of Brazil, invited South American governments, international organizations and  civil society representatives active in the region to gather for a 3-day workshop in Brasília, Brazil, from 2 to 4 September 2014.

The workshop was opened on Tuesday 2 September by Francisco Gaetani, Executive Secretary of the Ministry of Environment of Brazil, Fernando Lugris, Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on mercury, Denise Hamu, UNEP Representative in Brazil, and Jacob Duer, Coordinator of the Interim Secretariat of the Minamata Convention.

Integral part of UNEP’s regional and sub-regional efforts to support the ratification and early implementation of the Minamata Convention, the workshop aimed to further enhance participants knowledge of the Convention, of the processes for its ratification and early implementation, and of the available sources of support, including in the interim period.  Governments also had the opportunity to exchange information and discuss joint efforts. One important outcome of the workshop was the presentation by participating countries on Thursday 4 September of a draft national roadmap for the ratification and early implementation of the Convention that they were invited to prepare during the course of the workshop.  

Delegates from ten South American countries participated, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. Representatives from Intergovernmental organizations and UN Agencies that play a crucial role in the process towards rapid implementation and ratification of the Convention, including the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (OCTA), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UNEP Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, the UNEP Brazil Office and the Interim Secretariat of the Minamata Convention, as well as  representatives from a range of NGOs and industrial sectors, attended the event. 

Special High-level Event for the signature and ratification of the Minamata Convention
On 24 September 2014, from 1.15 pm to 2.30 pm, a Special High-Level event on the Minamata Convention on Mercury was held at UN Headquarters in the margin of the 2014 Treaty Event organized by the UN Office of Legal Affairs.

Special High-level Event for the signature and ratification of the Minamata Convention

Special High-level Event for the signature and ratification of the Minamata Convention

On 24 September 2014, from 1.15 pm to 2.30 pm, a Special High-Level event on the Minamata Convention on Mercury was held at UN Headquarters in the margin of the 2014 Treaty Event organized by the UN Office of Legal Affairs. Representatives were invited to attend to sign the Convention and, where possible, deposit the instrument of ratification. A booklet with additional information on the High-Level event is available in English and French.

On 28 May 2014, the Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon invited Heads of State and Government to the 2014 Treaty Event, held from 23 to 25 September 2014 and from 30 September to 1 October 2014 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. This event is held concurrently with the General Debate of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly, opening on 24 September 2014.

Among 40 multilateral treaties highlighted for the 2014 Treaty Event, the Minamata Convention, as well as the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions are included in the field of the environment. The Secretary-General invited Heads of State and Government to profit from the Treaty Event to sign treaties and deposit instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or  accession to the treaties concerned.

Therefore, and to facilitate the signature and ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a Special High-level Event was held. This event invited representatives to sign the Convention, with the presence of Treaty Section, and where possible, deposit the instrument of ratification.  Following the signing ceremony, representatives were committed to make statements regarding their signature. This event offered an opportunity to Governments to demonstrate their commitment to the Minamata Convention and will be used also as a mean for outreach in order to facilitate rapid entry into force of the Convention. The convention will remain open for signature until 9 October 2014.

For more information about the event, please contact the Interim Secretariat of the Mercury Convention here.


Executive Director Transmittal Letter

English

Invitation Letter to the High-level Special Event on the Minamata Convention

English

Provisional programme for the High-level Special Event on the Minamata Convention

English

Practical information

English
Francophone Workshops in Africa, Dakar
In accordance with the resolution on arrangements taken by the Plenipotentiary Conference in Kumamoto in October 2013, sub-regional workshops for Francophone Africa in support for the ratification and early implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury ended in Dakar on 16 July.

Francophone Workshops in Africa, Dakar

Francophone Workshops in Africa, Dakar

In accordance with the resolution on arrangements taken by the Plenipotentiary Conference in Kumamoto in October 2013, sub-regional workshops for Francophone Africa in support for the ratification and early implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury ended in Dakar on 16 July. Two workshops were held, from 9 to 11 July and from 14 to 16 July 2014. The participating countries to the workshops were:

  • First Workshop (9 to 11 July): Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Gabon, Madagascar, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe.
  • Second Workshop (14 to 16 July): Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Tunisia.

The workshops, organized by the Stockholm Convention Regional Centre in Senegal, were hosted at the Ngor Diarama Hotel and covered six main topics:

  • Emissions and releases ;
  • Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) ;
  • Supply sources, trade and storage ;
  • Waste and contaminated sites ;
  • Mercury-added products and manufacturing processes in which mercury is used ;
  • Health aspects.

These sessions were an opportunity for the attending countries and organizations to learn from each other and show the different aspects of their work related to mercury, either in terms of policies and technical solutions, or in terms of experience acquired. ASGM benefited from specific attention as gold mining is a major source of mercury contamination and is extensive in some of the participating countries.

Among the challenges addressed by the workshops, attention was given to mobilization of resource for implementation as well as suitable local approaches in order to manage the economic and political constraints. The presentation of national roadmaps on the ratification and implementation of the Convention by each participating country concluded the workshops as a key outcome. This set out the measures to be taken at a national level to move towards ratification and implementation.

Workshops for Francophone Africa also offered a chance to the attending countries to enhance their collaboration on environmental issues and promote more communication.

Gabon becomes 100th signatory
On 30 June 2014, Ms. Odette Marianne Bibalou, Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative of Gabon to the United Nations in new York, signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury in New York, making the country the 100th signatory of the Convention.

Gabon becomes 100th signatory

Gabon becomes 100th signatory

On 30 June 2014, Ms. Odette Marianne Bibalou, Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative of Gabon to the United Nations in new York, signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury in New York, making the country the 100th signatory of the Convention.

The Convention has been opened for signature since 10 October 2013, and will remain open until 9 October 2014.  The signature of the Convention demonstrates a State’s intent to examine the treaty domestically and consider ratifying it. While signing does not commit a State to ratification, it does oblige the State to refrain from acts that would defeat or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose.

By signing the Convention, Gabon becomes eligible to receive financial support from the Global Environment Facility for enabling activities, including an initial assessment of the mercury situation in the country.

The Government of Gabon is congratulated on its signature.

A complete list of signatories can be found here:

Matthew Selwyn Gubb
The interim secretariat of the Minamata Convention is saddened to inform you of the passing of Mr Matthew Gubb on 4 May 2014 following a courageous battle with cancer.

Matthew Selwyn Gubb

Matthew Selwyn Gubb

The interim secretariat of the Minamata Convention is saddened to inform you of the passing of Mr Matthew Gubb on 4 May 2014 following a courageous battle with cancer.  

Matthew has worked extensively in the international chemicals arena, initially as a representative of the Government of New Zealand.  He joined the Chemicals Branch of UNEP prior to the negotiations of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, and was integral to their negotiation. He went on to coordinate the SAICM secretariat until his appointment as the Coordinator of the Mercury Negotiations Team following the decision by the Governing Council of UNEP in 2009 to negotiate a legally binding instrument on mercury.  His consultative approach, and the importance he placed on inclusive methods of working, were a key to the successful negotiations he supported. He coordinated the negotiation activities until 2011 when he was promoted to head the International Environment Technology Centre (IETC) in Osaka.  Despite moving from the Chemicals Branch, and the Mercury Negotiations Team, he maintained his keen interest in the negotiations and served as a point of liaison with the Government of Japan during the preparations for the Diplomatic Conference. 

When he moved back to Geneva due to ill health, he maintained his relationship with Chemicals Branch, contributing to further work on mercury. 

For all who knew and worked with Matthew, we will remember his calm and productive approach to challenges, his dedication to excellent outcomes and his dry sense of humour. 

The chemicals community has lost an incredible asset and a great friend, and Matthew will be sorely missed.

May he rest in peace.

Publication of WHO commissioned study on health impacts of mercury in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining
The WHO-commissioned study "Mercury Exposure and Health Impacts among Individuals in the Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining Community: A Comprehensive Review" has been published in Environmental Health Perspectives (early on-line version).

Publication of WHO commissioned study on health impacts of mercury in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining

Publication of WHO commissioned study on health impacts of mercury in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining

The WHO-commissioned study "Mercury Exposure and Health Impacts among Individuals in the Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining Community: A Comprehensive Review" has been published in Environmental Health Perspectives. The early on-line version of the study can be accessed at  http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1307864.

The findings of this study, summarized for decision makers, were presented at the Conference of Plenipotentiaries for the Minamata Convention on Mercury in Kumamoto in October 2014, and published on the WHO website. 

 

This short information documents for decision makers can be accessed 
in English at www.who.int/entity/ipcs/assessment/public_health/mercury_asgm.pdf and in Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish and Russian at www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/mercury/en/.

 

First workshop in support for the ratification and early implementation of the Minamata Convention
The first workshop in support for the ratification and early implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury was held from 19 to 21 March 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  

First workshop in support for the ratification and early implementation of the Minamata Convention

First workshop in support for the ratification and early implementation of the Minamata Convention

The first workshop in support for the ratification and early implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury was held from 19 to 21 March 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Convened by the Interim Secretariat of the Minamata Convention thanks to the generous support from the Government of China, this workshop gathered representatives from eleven South East Asian countries, IGOs and NGOs active in the sub-region.

The objectives of the workshop were to further enhance participants knowledge of the Convention and the processes for its signature, ratification and early implementation. It also aimed at providing the participants with information on the available sources of support and at creating opportunities for exchange and action at the sub-regional level. By the end of the workshop, each participating country had prepared a draft national roadmap for the ratification and early implementation of the Convention.

In its resolution on arrangements in the interim period, the Conference of Plenipotentiaries held from 10 to 11 October 2013 in Kumamoto, Japan called upon States and regional economic integration organizations to take, as soon as possible, the domestic measures necessary to enable them to meet their obligations upon ratification and thereafter to ratify, accept, approve or accede to the Convention with a view to its entry into force as soon as possible. The Conference further requested the Executive Director of UNEP to facilitate activities at regional and country level to support implementation during the interim period in an effective and efficient manner.

In response to this request, UNEP will be conducting a series of workshops in the interim period until the Convention enters into force to assist countries in their process towards ratification and early implementation of their obligations under the Convention. The next workshops organized in support for the ratification and early implementation of the Minamata Convention will be the first and second Anglophone Africa workshops, scheduled to be held in Nairobi from 23 to 25 April and 28 to 30 April 2014.

 

Minamata Convention Interim Secretariat participates in joint GEF retreat
On Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 January 2014, the Minamata Convention Interim Secretariat participated in a retreat with the GEF and GEF STAP (Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel) Secretariats in Glion, Switzerland.  

Minamata Convention Interim Secretariat participates in joint GEF retreat

Minamata Convention Interim Secretariat participates in joint GEF retreat

On Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 January 2014, the Minamata Convention Interim Secretariat participated in a retreat with the GEF and GEF STAP (Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel)  Secretariats in Glion, Switzerland. The first day of the meeting was a joint meeting with the SAICM and Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions Secretariats.

The objective of the retreat was to enhance cooperation and seek opportunities for future synergies with the GEF Secretariat, including during the interim period prior to enter into force of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. A series of joint follow up action items were agreed upon at the end of the retreat for further collaboration in the interim period.

The retreat, which took place in an informal setting in the beautiful Swiss mountains, contributed to fostering a stronger relationship with the GEF secretariat. The Minamata Convention Interim Secretariat welcomes the opportunity to establish strong working relationship with the GEF Secretariat and looks forward to strengthening this relationship during the interim period.

United Nations Convention Tackling Hazardous Mercury To Open for Signature
Long-awaited United Nations Treaty will curb use and emissions, reduce human health impacts  

United Nations Convention Tackling Hazardous Mercury To Open for Signature

United Nations Convention Tackling Hazardous Mercury To Open for Signature

Long-awaited United Nations Treaty will curb use and emissions, reduce human health impacts

Nairobi, 7 October 2013 - A landmark treaty to curb the use of mercury will open for signature on Wednesday, 9 October in Japan, marking a further watershed moment towards the global phase-out of the notorious heavy metal in many products and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted.

The newest United Nations treaty, named the Minamata Convention after a Japanese city where serious health damage occurred as a result of mercury pollution in the mid-20th Century, is both wide-ranging and legally binding. It provides controls and reductions in areas ranging from medical equipment such as thermometers to energy-saving light bulbs to the mining, cement and coal-fired power sectors. Pinpointing populations at risk, boosting medical care and better training of health care professionals in identifying and treating mercury-related effects will also form part of the new agreement.

Agreed in January, the Convention marks the culmination of four years of complex negotiations among over 140 member states, which were convened in Geneva by UNEP beginning in 2009.

"With this convention, nations have laid the foundations for a global response to a pollutant whose notoriety has been recognized since Greek and Roman times," said UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme Achim Steiner. "Everyone in the world stands to benefit from it, in particular the workers and families of small-scale gold miners, the peoples of the Arctic and this generation of mothers and babies and the generations to come."

Mercury and its various compounds have a range of serious health impacts including brain and neurological damage especially among the young. Others include kidney damage and damage to the digestive system. Victims can suffer memory loss and language impairment alongside many other well documented problems.

According to a recent UNEP report, Global Mercury Assessment 2013, Asia is the largest regional emitter of mercury, and accounts for just under half of all global releases. The report also finds that an estimated 260 tonnes of mercury - previously held in soils - are being released into rivers and lakes. As much human exposure to mercury is through the consumption of contaminated fish, aquatic environments are the critical link to human health.

In the new treaty, governments have agreed on a range of mercury containing products whose production, export and import will be banned by 2020. These include batteries, except for 'button cell' batteries used in implantable medical devices, switches and relays, certain types of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), mercury in cold cathode fluorescent lamps and external electrode fluorescent lamps and soaps and cosmetics.

The treaty will also target the artisanal and small-scale gold mining industries, where mercury is used to separate gold from the ore-bearing rock. In addition, it will control mercury emissions and releases from various large industrial facilities ranging from coal-fired power stations and industrial boilers to certain kinds of smelters handling for example zinc and gold.

Initial funding to fast track action until the new treaty comes into force in the expected three to five years' time has been pledged by Japan, Norway and Switzerland.

For more information, please contact: Melissa Gorelick, UNEP Information Officer, +254 20 762 3088/ +254 71 621 4041 melissa.gorelick@unep.org

Minamata Convention Agreed by Nations
Global Mercury Agreement to Lift Health Threats from Lives of Millions World-Wide  

Minamata Convention Agreed by Nations

Minamata Convention Agreed by Nations

Global Mercury Agreement to Lift Health Threats from Lives of Millions World-Wide

Geneva/Nairobi, 19 January 2013 - International effort to address mercury-a notorious heavy metal with significant health and environmental effects-was today delivered a significant boost with governments agreeing to a global, legally-binding treaty to prevent emissions and releases.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury-named after a city in Japan where serious health damage occurred as a result of mercury pollution in the mid-20th Century-provides controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted.  

These range from medical equipment such as thermometers and energy-saving light bulbs to the mining, cement and coal-fired power sectors.

The treaty, which has been four years in negotiation and which will be open for signature at a special meeting in Japan in October, also addresses the direct mining of mercury, export and import of the metal and safe storage of waste mercury.

Pinpointing populations at risk, boosting medical care and better training of health care professionals in identifying and treating mercury-related effects will also form part of the new agreement.

Mercury and its various compounds have a range of serious health impacts including brain and neurological damage especially among the young.

Others include kidney damage and damage to the digestive system. Victims can suffer memory loss and language impairment alongside many other well documented problems.

Initial funding to fast track action until the new treaty comes into force in the expected three to five years' time has been pledged by Japan, Norway and Switzerland.

Support for developing countries is also expected from the Global Environment Facility and a programme once the convention is operational.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) which convened the negotiations among over 140 member states in Geneva, said at the close:" After complex and often all night sessions here in Geneva, nations have today laid the foundations for a global response to a pollutant whose notoriety has been recognized for well over a century." 

"Everyone in the world stands to benefit from the decisions taken this week in Geneva- in particular the workers and families of small-scale gold miners, the peoples of the Arctic and this generation of mothers and babies and the generations to come. I look forward to swift ratification of the Minamata Convention so that it comes into force as soon as possible," he said.

Fernando Lugris, the Uruguayan chair of the negotiations, said : " Today in the early hours of 19 January 2013 we have closed a chapter on a journey that has taken four years of often intense but ultimately successful negotiations and opened a new chapter towards a sustainable future. This has been done in the name of vulnerable populations everywhere and represents an opportunity for a healthier and more sustainable century for all peoples".

Ambassador Franz Perrez of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Switzerland said:"Switzerland, which initiated with Norway the negotiations for a mercury convention, is very pleased about this impressive success. It will help us to protect human health and the environment all over the world and is a proof that multilateralism can work when political will exists."

"This treaty will not bring immediate reductions of mercury emissions. It will need to be improved and strengthened, to make all fish safe to eat," said David Lennett from the Natural Resources Defense Council representing the Zero Mercury Working Group a global coalition of environmental NGOs "Still, the treaty will phase out mercury in many products and we welcome it as a starting point."

The decision to launch negotiations was taken by environment ministers at the 2009 session of the UNEP Governing Council and the final and fifth negotiation took place this week in Geneva.

The scope of the new treaty which puts in controls and also reduction measures in respect to mercury is as follows.

Products

Governments have agreed on a range of mercury containing products whose production, export and import will be banned by 2020.

These include:

  • Batteries, except for 'button cell' batteries used in implantable medical devices
  • Switches and relays
  • Certain types of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
  • Mercury in cold cathode fluorescent lamps and external electrode fluorescent lamps
  • Soaps and cosmetics

Certain kinds of non-electronic medical devices such as thermometers and blood pressure devices are also included for phase-out by 2020.

Governments approved exceptions for some large measuring devices where currently there are no mercury-free alternatives.

  • Vaccines where mercury is used as a preservative have been excluded from the treaty as have products used in religious or traditional activities
  • Delegates agreed to a phase-down of the use of dental fillings using mercury amalgam.

Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining

The booming price of gold in recent years has triggered a significant growth in small-scale mining where mercury is used to separate gold from the ore-bearing rock.

Emissions and releases from such operations and from coal-fired power stations represent the biggest source of mercury pollution world-wide.

Workers and their families involved in small-scale gold mining are exposed to mercury pollution in several ways including through inhalation during the smelting.

Mercury is also being released into river systems from these small-scale operations where it can contaminate fish, the food chain and people downstream.

  • Governments agreed that the treaty will require countries to draw up strategies to reduce the amount of mercury used by small-scale miners
  • Nations with artisanal and small-scale gold mining operations will draw up national plans within three years of the treaty entering into force to reduce and if possible eliminate the use of mercury in such operations
  • Public awareness campaigns and support for mercury-free alternatives will also be part of the plans

From Power Stations to Cement Factories

The new treaty will control mercury emissions and releases from various large industrial facilities ranging from coal-fired power stations and industrial boilers to certain kinds of smelters handling for example zinc and gold.

Waste incineration and cement clinker facilities are also on the list.

Nations agreed to install the Best Available Technologies on new power plants and facilities with plans to be drawn up to bring emissions down from existing ones.

The negotiations were initially looking to set thresholds on the size of plants or level of emissions to be controlled. But it was decided this week to defer this until the first meeting of the treaty after it comes into force.

Notes to Editors

Background to the fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to prepare a global legally binding instrument on mercury (INC5)

Global Mercury Assessment 2013

Time to Act

For More Information Please Contact
Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson on Tel: +254 733632755 or when travelling +41 79 596 5737

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