Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Statement delivered at the High Level Segment “UN Uniting for Minamata”

Sep 28, 2017

I am delighted to join you this evening and to share UNDP’s perspectives on the Minamata journey as well as our vision for a world without mercury contamination.

First, I would like to congratulate everyone here for the entry into force of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.  Thanks to the dedication and hard work of individuals and organizations around this table and around the world, we should take a moment to celebrate this important milestone in protecting the global environment and human health.

As we are all well aware, the journey to get here has required effort and persuasion; discussions on the need for a legally binding instrument on mercury started ten years ago; the Minamata Convention on Mercury was adopted in 2013.

The international community has taken action to protect human health and the environment from another harmful pollutant, mercury.  UNDP’s efforts on reducing use and releases of mercury have mainly focused on the extractives sector, by supporting the phase-out of mercury used in mining to extract gold, and on the health sector, where we support the phase-out of mercury-containing medical devices and the reduction of mercury emissions.  We have been recognized for our innovative work in the healthcare sector in several countries, where we support model hospitals in adopting best practices for mercury management, introducing mercury-free devices, training healthcare staff on their use, and evaluating acceptability and efficacy.  We have also assisted many countries in addressing the mercury releases from artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) through the introduction and promotion of best practices and techniques for gold extraction. Our projects support the formalization of the ASGM sector through the creation of cooperatives, establish financial lending arrangements for the purchase of mercury-free processing equipment by legalized miners/cooperatives, and increase the capacity of mining communities to shorten the gold supply chain; apply BAT/BEP approaches; and adopt socially and environmentally sound mining practices.  In this respect, we would like to highlight our participation in an innovative programme called GEF GOLD, in partnership with UNEP, UNIDO and the NGO Conservation International.

UNDP is very proud to support civil society organizations in mercury management through the GEF Small Grants Programme. Tomorrow, we will launch “Local to Global Coalitions on Chemicals, Waste, and Mercury” together with International POPs Network and Zero Mercury Working Group.

We will continue supporting countries in their efforts to prepare for and meet their commitments under the Minamata Convention as a contribution to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Since our approach is focused on sustainable human development, we view the mercury problem from both angles: the development issue and the environment impact. For phasing out mercury has benefits for human health, for poverty reduction, marine and coastal biodiversity, fishers’ livelihoods, child protection and the promotion of fair labour conditions. 

We will continue supporting phase out and reduction of mercury use and releases, so that parties – in our case, with a focus on developing and middle-income countries - meet their commitments under the Convention. This can consist of activities such as assistance to conduct mercury inventories, reduction and elimination of the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), phasing out of mercury-containing products in the healthcare sector, reduction of emissions of mercury and mercury compounds to the atmosphere from point sources and the lifecycle management of mercury. 

To conclude, mercury is a problem whose solutions are known. What is required to achieve global success is a steadfast and persistent effort over the coming decades. The decisions that are made over the course of the next few days will signal the way forward. We are committed to be part of those walking in this direction. 

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