Over 450 participants representing governments, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations took part in the seventh session of the intergovernmental negotiating committee on mercury (INC7), where GEF presented its latest report. The session concluded its work on 15 March 2016 at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center in Jordan after six days of meeting.
Almost since inception, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has been supporting significant efforts to address the challenges of managing and eliminating the use of mercury in a number of key sectors, including the health sector and the artisanal and small scale gold mining sector.
Mercury, a neurotoxin, is a substance which disperses into and remains in ecosystems for generations, like persistent organic pollutants (POPs), causing severe ill health and intellectual impairment to exposed populations.
On January 19, 2013, the fifth meeting of the intergovernmental negotiating committee on mercury (INC5) selected the GEF to fund the implementation of a new international treaty committed to the reduction and eventual elimination of mercury contamination: the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The Convention is named for a fishing village in Japan which suffered tragically due to mercury contamination.
In the last few years, the GEF has utilized its convening power to promote innovation in the design and scaling up of mercury programs to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. The GEF-6 Strategy for the Chemicals and Waste focal area includes a specific program to support mercury management and reduction projects in priority areas. The strategy also defines priority and eligibility criteria for projects. The GEF is also providing support to enabling activities that help countries plan actions that help them meet their obligations under the convention, including initial assessments and national action plans for the artisanal and small scale gold mining sector.
In the last couple of years the GEF’s eligibility criteria for the enabling activities have been revised to include non-signatories that are taking steps towards ratifying the Convention. So far, the GEF has supported these enabling activities in 74 countries, including National Action Plans (NAPs) for Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) in 13 countries to facilitate ratification.
Between July 2014 and October 2015, the GEF has programmed $24.6 million in mercury projects, including mercury initial assessments, national action plans, capacity building, healthcare waste management, and reducing the production and use of mercury in manufacturing processes.
GEF-6 has a programming target of $141 million for the Minamata Convention, and the projects funded are expected to reduce mercury contamination by 1,000 tonnes.