A decade after the adoption of the Minamata Convention, the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-5) takes place in Geneva from October 30 to November 3 with an ambitious agenda.
Geneva, 30 October 2023. The opening ceremony began with the welcoming sound of Swiss music to mark the start of COP-5, an event that draws together more than one thousand participants committed to ending mercury pollution. This meeting also marks the tenth anniversary since the Convention was adopted and signed in Kumamoto, Japan, in October 2013, while entering into force in 2017.
Elizabeth Mrema, Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (in a video message) stressed that ten years ago, representatives from around the world came together to recognize the urgent need to tackle mercury pollution, a toxic threat that knows no borders, and which can have devastating consequences for our planet and its people. “As we face up to the global challenges of pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change, this fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention is a powerful example of that collective determination”, she said.
The importance of being part of the broader and recently adopted Global Framework on Chemicals was emphasized by Katrin Schneeberger, State Secretary and Director of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment. "This Framework complements other international instruments, including the Minamata Convention and other chemicals and waste conventions. It will support their implementation and make them more visible", stated Schneeberger.
Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary of the Minamata Convention, appreciated the engagement and the hard work undertaken by delegates in the past year and reminded them that the deadlines for implementation established in the Convention are very ambitious. “I would like to convey to you a sense of urgency to implement the obligations of the Convention, because as we gather here in Geneva, there are still people in different places in the world that are exposed to mercury, and often at high levels,” she said.
In the same line, the Minamata Convention COP-5 President, Claudia-Sorina Dumitru, thanked parties for their tireless efforts in strengthening, preserving and implementing the Convention, and the Secretariat for its ongoing assistance and close collaboration in the run-up to COP-5. She conveyed her hope for progress to be made this week. “In the spirit of the Minamata Convention and in recognition of the remarkable progress made by this still-young Multilateral Environmental Agreement, I am convinced that all of you will be able to reach a constructive compromise during the negotiations”, she said.
“This is your COP, and our shared aim is to complete by Friday afternoon with all proposed decisions gaveled. In so doing, we will, together, continue to bring the vision and promise of the Minamata Convention to reality throughout the world”, she added.
Development of the meeting
During plenary sessions, which will be live-streamed, the official meeting documents will be discussed in order for the COP to make decisions on crucial matters such as determining the phase-out dates for mercury-added products, the need to implement artisanal and small-scale gold mining National Action Plans while engaging with Indigenous Peoples, and the review the Convention´s financial mechanism to continue supporting developing country Parties and Parties with economies in transition in their efforts to implement the Convention.
There is an expectation to reach an agreement on several important points, including establishing a group to undertake the first evaluation of the effectiveness of the Convention, adopting guidance regarding releases of mercury, and establishing specific thresholds for waste contaminated with mercury or mercury compounds.
The COP will also consider a Gender Action plan, a digital strategy, and fostering international cooperation. These initiatives will enhance the Secretariat´s ability to support parties in implementing the Convention and contributing more effectively to the global environmental agenda.
Throughout the week, the Secretariat aims to inspire delegates with several activities. The events started with the screening of the Minamata movie on Sunday evening, presented by the film director Andrew Levitas, Executive Secretary of the Minamata Convention Monika Stankiewicz and two members of the Minamata Disease Mutual Aid Society.
In collaboration with the Geneva Environment Network, the special event “Minamata Convention: A Decade of Global Commitment to Make Mercury History” (Monday, 30 October at 13:15) features diverse voices sharing their insights on the Convention's progress over the past ten years and their hopes for the future.
On Tuesday 31 October, the Global Environment Facility and UNEP will shed light on the negative effects of skin-lightening practices driven by harmful cultural norms with their event “Mercury in cosmetics: More than what meets the eye”.
From Tuesday to Friday, delegates can participate in thirteen knowledge labs during lunchtime, offering a platform for the exchange of information and ideas. The exhibition area, open during the week, has been designed as a space to provide a unique opportunity for partner institutions to showcase their activities, projects, and technologies designed to support the Convention's implementation.
Note for editors
About the Minamata Convention
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is the most recent global agreement on environment and health, adopted in 2013. It 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, 147 Parties have been working together to control the mercury supply and trade, reduce the use, emissions and releases of mercury, raise public awareness, and build the necessary institutional capacity.
About the UN Environment Programme
UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
For media queries, please contact Anna García Sans (anna.garcia [at] un.org), Communications and Knowledge Management Officer, Minamata Convention on Mercury