Recorded remarks by Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary of the Minamata Convention, at the UNEA-5 Leadership Dialogue on 22 February 2021
Just a decade ago, the world came together under the United Nations Environment Programme to confront a major challenge, and began working on a comprehensive solution to the critical and growing problem of mercury pollution.
The Minamata Convention, the youngest global environmental treaty, has been in force for only three years. With 127 Parties already, we are proud of the progress we have made, and optimistic about the future. It is critical that we continue to welcome new parties to join our efforts to Make Mercury History.
This vision of the future, and our close work together, is to help our parties fulfill their obligations and ensure that the Convention meets its objective: to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.
For our Parties, health is not an added benefit of protecting the environment,” it is the very reason for the Convention. One Health – for human beings, biota, and the environment.
The Minamata Convention contributes to the realization of all the Sustainable Development Goals, and socioeconomic factors are not just a sidebar but are central to its obligations.
For example, the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector, which represents the largest use and emissions of mercury on a global basis, has implications for health, biodiversity, deforestation, transboundary freshwater, food security, fisheries, and supply chain management.
Millions of people earn their livelihood through this informal sector, and implementation needs to match the complexity of the issue, including through careful and comprehensive inclusion of indigenous peoples voices and gender aspects in our work. We simply must do this right.
In a post-pandemic world, the economic and social benefits of full implementation of the Minamata Convention are widespread.
The costs of not doing what the Minamata Convention obliges are enormous. On the other hand, the timely and effective implementation of this global treaty will contribute to building back a better world. A world where people and natural environment are no longer impacted by the harmful effects of mercury.
We are already reaching early milestones in the implementation such as the 2020 deadline for parties to phase out manufacturing, import, and export of listed mercury-added products including lamps, cosmetics and medical products. 2025 is the deadline for the most common mercury-based manufacturing process, chlor-alkali, to switch entirely to non-mercury processes. And the sound management of resulting wastes is also required. These actions will support improvements in the Health sector by improving the chlorine production sector and will take mercury out of medical devices.
Transformational change in Trade of mercury and in supply chains can also happen based on the requirements of the Convention.
Emissions of mercury can be drastically reduced through the use of best available techniques and best environmental practices.
In Fisheries, the Convention works to protect the health and economic value of tuna and other fish stocks vital to food supplies.
We are focused on implementation through digital learning to better assist our Parties. Our financial mechanism supports transformative projects through the Global Environment Facility and grants to eligible parties through the Specific International Programme. And we are also developing capacity building activities at international, national and local level through voluntary contributions.
As we look forward to putting in place arrangements for the evaluation of the Convention’s effectiveness, we celebrate the active engagement of the scientific community, which has embraced this issue and has invigorated global networks to build the knowledge base.
We welcome the active engagement of the private sector in ensuring that investments in manufacturing, commerce, and industrial growth advance our obligations.
And we salute the courageous efforts of civil society, indigenous peoples, and community-based organizations all over the world who, since the time of the Minamata disaster that impacted the health of so many people, have worked to ensure that the world takes action for the benefit of all of us.
The Minamata Convention is a piece of a bigger puzzle to understand what needs to be done and how to do it to build a future world.
For example, together with the secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, we are mapping deeper scientific connections between chemicals and wastes and biodiversity, and chemicals and waste and climate change.
The United Nations Environment Programme plays a critical role in putting the pieces of the puzzle together and to strengthen the environmental voice and the action on a global scale.
This United Nations Environment Assembly, together with major upcoming meetings of the multilateral environmental agreements, will help set the world on a clear path to improve human and environmental health for a resilient and inclusive post-pandemic world.