Mercury is a global threat to human health and the environment.
Mercury can be released into the air, water and soil through industrial processes including mining, metal and cement production, and through fuel extraction and the combustion of fossil fuels. Mercury is also present in daily life; in electrical and electronic devices, switches (including thermostats) and relays, measuring and control equipment, energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, mascara, skin-lightening creams and other cosmetics, dental filings and a host of other consumables. Additionally, food products obtained from fish, terrestrial mammals and other products such as rice can contain mercury. Therefore, controlling the anthropogenic releases of mercury throughout its lifecycle is a priority for countries and resulted in the adoption of the Minamata Convention on Mercury in January 2013.
UNITAR is supporting countries to strengthen their national capacities to manage mercury and comply fully with the national obligations of the Minamata Convention. Areas of support include: capacity-building and training, policy reform, development of national action plans for artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) and Minamata Initial Assessments, and supporting phase-out activities.
These capacity-development activities are geared towards addressing the main global objectives of reduction of mercury releases and emissions to the environment and ensuring the sound management of mercury in different sectors.
Support to ratification: Activities financially supported by the Government of Switzerland support countries to accelerate the ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury and early implementation of this treaty. Twenty-two countries have benefited from this programme between 2014 and 2016.
Supporting countries with MIA development: UNITAR is fully executing Minamata Initial Assessment (MIAs) projects in 13 countries, while partially executing in 17 other countries. This work is mainly focused on the review of legislation, training and developing mercury inventories, awareness-raising and knowledge-sharing between stakeholders. During the course of the projects, UNITAR will be organizing numerous capacity-building and training workshops in all UN regions. In addition, UNITAR will be organizing information and training webinars for specific topics within the scope of MIAs. Information on these activities will be provided on UNITAR’s Mercury platform.
National Action Plans: UNITAR will be working with countries, assisting in developing National Action Plans (NAPs) for the reduction of mercury use in ASGM.
Mercury Platform: UNITAR has developed a ‘Mercury Platform’ and an online training platform ‘MercuryLearn’. The mercury platform provides up-to-date information on activities conducted under the mercury portfolio of UNITAR while MercuryLearn contains training packages on how to develop mercury releases and emissions’ inventories. These platforms have been developed with financial support from the European Commission and Switzerland, and in partnership with UNEP. These platforms are free to access for all countries and stakeholders.
In addition to IOMC partners, UNITAR coordinates its work with different organizations such as the Minamata Convention Interim Secretariat and the BRS secretariat in order to ensure effective results and coordination.
Photo credit: José M. Domínguez