12 October 2023, Koror, Palau – Representatives from seven Pacific Island countries, Parties to the Minamata Convention, as well as four observer countries, gathered today in Koror, Palau to prepare for the 5th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury to be held in Geneva, Switzerland from 30 October to 3 November 2023.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a significant international treaty aimed at protecting human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury and mercury compounds.

Named after the city in Japan where severe mercury poisoning incidents occurred in the 1950s and 1960s, the convention has been a critical global initiative to address the dangers associated with mercury exposure. It seeks to reduce the emissions and releases of mercury and to control its trade and use, particularly in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, among other sources.

The Pacific Preparatory meeting is convened by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to discuss matters relating to the agenda and work program of the Minamata COP 5 including potential amendments to the convention and prepare Pacific Parties for their active participation at the meeting.

In his opening remarks, the Director of the Waste Management and Pollution Control Division at SPREP, Mr Anthony Talouli underlined that the Blue Pacific continent with its vast oceans of 30 million square kilometres, and diverse island ecosystems, is not just uniquely vulnerable to the harmful effects of mercury pollution, but it also plays a pivotal role in the global fight against mercury pollution.

“Our oceans are both a source of livelihood and the very essence of our Pacific identity. They bind us together and, in many ways, tell the story of our past, present, and future. However, the challenges we face are immense. From small-scale gold mining activities to imported goods containing mercury, we in the Pacific are exposed to this hazardous element in numerous ways. Our marine life, coral reefs, and the very essence of our way of life hang in the balance,” he said.

To better understand and manage the challenges posed by mercury, SPREP collaborated closely with eight countries (7 Parties – Kiribati, Palau, RMI, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu plus Cook Islands) to complete the Minamata Initial Assessments (MIAs). These MIAs represent a crucial undertaking to evaluate the institutional and regulatory capacity of the participating nations to effectively manage mercury’s impacts.

“Our collective findings have been enlightening and sometimes surprising. Despite the Pacific region’s relatively low mercury emissions, we have discovered a continued reliance on mercury-containing products and devices, especially in vital sectors like health. This dependence is a pressing concern that requires our immediate attention and action,” Mr Talouli said.

“SPREP stands committed to assisting Pacific Island countries in their endeavours. Our mission is to ensure that every nation has a meaningful voice and participation in the COP, ensuring that our collective concerns and aspirations are addressed,” he added.

“When the Minamata Convention started, Samoa was the only country that had acceded, it is good to note that the membership has now increased to 7 Parties and we hope more countries join our fight to help make the Pacific mercury-free,” said the chair to the meeting, the representative from Tonga, Ms Mafile’o Masi.

“As history has shown, we thrive when we pool our knowledge, resources, and strengths. I urge all present nations to approach our discussions with an open heart, focused on collaborative solutions,” Ms Masi added.

The meeting precedes a series of Waste Management and Pollution Control related meetings happening in Koror, Palau from October 12-20, 2023.

The Pacific Preparatory Meeting for the 5th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention (MC COP-5) on Mercury, the Extraordinary Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Waigani Convention, the GEF ISLANDS Pacific and Pacific Ocean Litter Project Consultation Meetings, and the Pacific Preparatory Meeting for the 3rd session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) on Plastic Pollution is held in Koror, Palau from 12-23 October, 2023.

The meetings are hosted by the Government of Palau in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and financial support from the Government of Australia, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the ACP MEAs 3 Programme.

For further information on the Minamata Convention please visit: https://minamataconvention.org/en/meetings/cop5

For further information please email Joshua Sam, Hazardous Waste Management Adviser of SPREP at joshuas@sprep.org

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