The Minamata Convention on Mercury is the first global agreement specifically designed to address contamination from a heavy metal. Opened for signature in October 2013, the Convention is the first major environmental treaty since the Kyoto Protocol came into force in 2005. It seeks to address issues related to the use and release of mercury including trade, industrial uses, and major sources of atmospheric emissions and releases of mercury into the environment, as well as long-term storage and disposal of mercury and mercury compounds. Highlights of the Convention include a ban on new mercury mines and the phase-out of existing ones, control measures on air emissions, and regulations for artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
As experts in the field of mercury science, BRI researchers were invited by U.S. government officials to participate as a nongovernmental organization (NGO) during the negotiating process of the Convention. The meetings of the International Negotiating Committee (INC) that preceded and have continued since the adoption of the Convention include delegates from more than 140 countries and numerous NGOs interested in reducing mercury pollution. BRI has participated in five of the first seven INC meetings.
BRI serves as co-lead of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Mercury Air Transport and Fate Research partnership area. As a co-lead BRI is assisting with development of a globally coordinated mercury monitoring and observation system. In addition, BRI is assisting three UN agencies to implement Minamata Convention Initial Assessment (MIA) activities in many countries, as (1) an Executing Agency with UNIDO, (2) an International Technical Expert with UNDP, and (3) an International Technical Expert with UNEP. These MIA activities are designed to assist countries with developing strategies for ratifying and ultimately implementing the Convention.
BRI's article, Evaluating the effectiveness of the Minamata Convention on Mercury: Principles and recommendations for next steps, was recently published in Science of the Total Environment.
This article recommends using a range of short-, medium-, and long-term metrics related to five major mercury control Articles in order to evaluate effectiveness, as well as using metrics derived from monitoring mercury in the environment using select bioindicators, including people.
Click on map symbols for more information about BRI's work in each location.
The International Negotiating Committee (INC) and the Global Environmental Facility have developed a series of pre-ratification activities, called Minamata Convention Initial Assessments (MIAs). MIAs are designed to prepare countries for treaty ratification and implementation through three primary steps:
In addition, MIAs will assist countries with development of communications tools and strategies to inform governmental agencies, NGOs, and the public on activities related to the Convention.
As either an Executing Agency (with UNIDO) or as an International Technical Expert (through UNDP and UNEP), BRI is assisting countries around the world to conduct MIAs and meet the requirements outlined by the Minamata Convention to reduce mercury in the environment:
In collaboration with IPEN, our project Global Mercury Monitoring in Humans and the Fish We Eat is the first of its kind to identify, in one collaborative effort, global biological hotspots that represent elevated levels of mercury exposure that may pose serious threats to both ecosystem and human health.
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