Executive Secretary at GEF Assembly: “For the Minamata Convention to be fully implemented, women are our agents of change”

25 Aug 2023

The Seventh Global Environment Facility (GEF) Assembly in Vancouver, Canada continued this week featuring several key side events, including a session addressing "Mercury Contamination from Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM): Impacts and Solutions" (pictured above). This event was co-organized by the Secretariat of the Minamata Convention in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy. The panel discussion brought diverse voices, including representatives from Indigenous Peoples, government, and civil society.

GEF Assembly


The dialogue revolved around the profound impacts of mercury pollution on Indigenous Peoples and underscored their key role in abating this dangerous threat. Notably, mercury contamination from ASGM has a significant effect on Indigenous Peoples worldwide, particularly those residing in proximity to rivers and lakes and heavily reliant on fish as their primary source of protein. The implications of mercury contamination extend further, as it is also a driver of degradation of critical freshwater and forest biomes, thereby undermining the essential ecosystem services they provide.

Over the course of the GEF Assembly, which took place from 22 to 25 August, Executive Secretary Monika Stankiewicz participated in major side events, such as a panel discussion on Gender-responsive Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). The event was organized by members of the GEF Gender Partnership, including the Secretariat of the Minamata Convention, which facilitated an interactive session with governments, MEA gender focal points, implementing Agencies and the GEF.

In her remarks, the Executive Secretary stressed the critical importance of empowering women to achieve transformational change in the sectors under the Convention’s purview. Stankiewicz stated: “The Minamata Convention already recognizes disproportional impacts of mercury pollution on women and children. For the Minamata Convention to be fully implemented, women are our agents of change.”

The upcoming fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention (COP-5) will consider a Gender Action Plan, which provides a comprehensive blueprint for actions to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls within all activities under the purview of the Convention . The Convention has long demonstrated a robust gender focus through its financial mechanism, as evident in the projects and programmes funded through the GEF and the Specific International Programme (SIP). Anotable example of this commitment is the GEF-funded planetGOLD programme, which was highlighted during the event. Participants gained insights intospecific planetGOLD projects that are successfully addressing gender-differentiated exposures and risks, while also devising approaches to avoid unintended negative impacts of sectoral reforms on the health and livelihoods of women. 

On the final day of the GEF Assembly, the Executive Secretary also participated in a high-level roundtable centered on The GEF’s Future with New Agreements and Emerging Themes. Panelists exchanged views on how the partnership can evolve as the GEF’s mandate expands. The discussions included a panel addressing new and emerging agreements, and another one delving into emerging modalities and innovative approaches. Stankiewicz advocated for integration and expressed her satisfaction at witnessing the GEF taking a strong leadership in this regard.

"I am now equally excited to see how integration and generation of benefits across focal areas, across MEAs, will be realized in GEF-8", remarked the Executive Secretary. "In this regard, I think it would be useful to have a system to account for benefits for all conventions. It would be good if the Integrated Programs and projects in focal areas can ensure that all their actions fully recognize various Convention obligations. Overall this thinking is embedded in what GEF does, but we need more explicit and systemic approach. We need more granular information than is available now with the existing indicators and results framework. And we will need it even more with new agreements in place."

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