Remarks by Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary of the Minamata Convention, at the international meeting of "Stockholm+50: a healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity" in Sweden on 3 June 2022.
I join you here today to share one example of how the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment planted the seeds for global environmental governance solutions to a critical problem.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is the youngest global environmental treaty. It addresses mercury across many sectors and at every stage of the lifecycle. It is smartly designed and fully implementable. It is reasonable to expect that in some twenty years from now there will be no new mercury pollution.
We can draw a straight line from Stockholm to the birth of the Minamata Convention in 2013.
Victims of Minamata disease, caused by a methylmercury poisoning from discharges by chemical factories, sent their representative to Stockholm in 1972 with a mission to be seen and heard.
They joined their voices to those of other civil society and indigenous peoples groups to call for action that is evidence-based, equity-focused and gender responsive.
Mercury is so detrimental to human health and the environment that there is only one plausible way forward - and that is to phase out its use and eliminate its emissions.
I believe that the Minamata Convention stands as a guiding light for common-sense global cooperation. Through the international negotiation process convened by the United Nations Environment Programme, the world put in place a coherent set of legally binding obligations that is grounded in science, is practical and realistic, and has equity at its core.
Implementation of this treaty by parties allows us to envision:
- A transformed global gold market that continues to generate billions of dollars but has no place for unsustainably sourced gold such as with mercury use; Instead, millions of artisanal gold miners have proper working conditions and secure livelihoods in the sector or in alternative sectors.
- Mercury is no longer used in products and processes as better alternatives exist.
- Primary mercury mining is stopped, there is no longer a market for its trade, and any excess mercury is properly disposed of.
- Emissions of mercury from industries are no longer a threat.
- And lastly, exposure to mercury of especially women, children, and, through them, future generation is prevented.
As with any environmental commitment ever undertaken, we are facing issues of unstainable production and consumption, human rights, gender equality, degradation of most diverse ecosystems, and the challenges of global economy and financing.
The world cannot and will not fail to make mercury history.
I call on additional countries to ratify the convention and I invite stakeholders to help to keep momentum, be partners, watchdogs and protectors, for the health of all of us and for the health of this planet.
I thank you.