UNEP and Minamata: Journey towards a Mercury-free Planet

04 Nov 2021

In 2022, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will mark the 50th anniversary of its creation at the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference). As part of commemorating the 50th anniversary, UNEP organized a side event during the online segment of the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP-4).


The event, which was held on Wednesday, 3 November 2021 (17:45 – 18:45 CET), shed light on how, through UNEP, Member States have given birth to the Minamata Convention in response to a growing concern over the impact of mercury emissions on human health and the environment, thereby paving the way for an environment free of the harmful effects of mercury.

The entry into force of the Minamata Convention is one of the key milestones in the history of UNEP and international environmental governance that could provide insights into how UNEP and the international community could further catalyse joint action to address the triple environmental crises – namely, climate change, nature and biodiversity loss and pollution and waste. In the side event, panellists shared views on further strengthening the role of UNEP in identifying emerging environmental problems and mobilizing political action to address them using the Minamata Convention as an example and against the backdrop of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The side event raised awareness on the important role of UNEP in safeguarding the environment and human health including by making the scientific case for creating legal instruments such as the Minamata Convention and supporting their implementation across the world. The event also raised the profile of the Minamata Convention as a landmark in environmental governance.

The event included a panel discussion moderated by Marianne Bailey, Programme Officer of Minamata Convention secretariat, featuring:

  • Juan Bello, Coordinator for UNEP@50, UNEP
  • Yasuhisa Kitagawa, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Japan in Kenya
  • Sam Adu-Kumi, Director, Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana
  • Sofia Tingstorp, Stockholm+50 Secretariat, Ministry of the Environment, Sweden
  • Dickson Ho, Youth representative

The audience, which included governments and major groups and stakeholders participating in the online segment of COP-4, also watched two short videos covering the respective (and interlinked) journeys of UNEP and the Minamata Convention so far.

Why 50 years of UNEP shows it's possible to save the planet

The future we want: The Minamata Convention timeline

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