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Report of the Committee of the Whole

Document type
Decision
Reference number
Annex III
Date
Sep 24, 2017
Source
UNEP, InforMEA
Status
Adopted
Subject
Waste & hazardous substances, Mineral resources, Air & atmosphere
Treaty
Minamata Convention on Mercury (Oct 18, 2013)
Meeting
Website
cop1.mercuryconvention.org
Abstract

I. Introduction

1. At its 1st plenary session, on the afternoon of Sunday, 25 September 2017, the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury agreed to establish a committee of the whole to consider those issues that had not been completed during the first session of the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties under agenda items 5 and 6.

2. The Committee of the Whole was chaired by Mr. Fernando Lugris (Uruguay) with Ms. Nina Cromnier (Sweden) serving as rapporteur.

II. Matters for action by the Conference of the Parties at its first meeting (agenda item 5)
A. Matters stipulated under the Convention
1. The guidance referred to in paragraphs 8 (a) and 8 (b) of article 8

3. The Chair introduced the sub-item, recalling that the Conference of the Parties had discussed the matter in plenary and had adopted the draft guidance in relation to mercury emissions, as contained in annex II to document UNEP/MC/COP.1/7, but had referred the draft decision contained in annex I to the document to the Committee for its consideration.

4. One representative proposed an amendment to the draft decision, saying that the guidance on best available techniques and best environmental practices that had been developed did not reflect the kind of coal being used in the thermal power plants in his country; it was vital that the guidance cover the kind of coal being used in each country in order to be implementable and to properly address parties’ concerns regarding mercury emissions. He requested that the draft decision contained in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/7 be amended to reflect his country’s concern and provided text to that effect.

5. The Committee subsequently approved a draft decision on the guidance in relation to mercury emissions, for consideration and possible adoption by the Conference of the Parties.

2. The measures to give effect to the arrangements for the financial mechanism referred to in article 13

6. The representative of the secretariat introduced the sub-item, outlining the information set out in documents UNEP/MC/COP.1/8, on guidance to the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and UNEP/MC/COP.1/9 and UNEP/MC/COP.1/9/Add.1, on matters related to the specific international programme to support capacity-building and technical assistance. The guidance to GEF, she said, had been adopted on a provisional basis by the intergovernmental negotiating committee at its seventh session pending formal adoption by the Conference of the Parties. On the specific international programme, a number of issues related to the arrangements of the programme were yet to be agreed upon.

7. Following that introduction, the representative of GEF presented the report of GEF to the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties, on its work on mercury between July 2010 and June 2017, contained in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/INF/3. The report, she said, set out key institutional policy developments to operationalize the role of GEF as part of the financial mechanism of the Convention and outlined the support provided by GEF to countries in phasing out mercury.

8. In June 2013, the GEF Council had authorized funding for an early action pre-ratification programme for the Convention. The subsequent adoption of the Convention had made GEF part of the mechanism to support developing-country parties and parties with economies in transition in implementing their obligations under the Convention. In May 2014, the fifth Assembly of GEF had amended the GEF instrument to incorporate the Minamata Convention and to create a new funding window called the “chemicals and waste focal area”. The Assembly had also approved the summary of negotiations on the sixth replenishment of the GEF Trust Fund, which had allocated $141 million to the implementation of the Minamata Convention during the sixth replenishment period (GEF-6).

9. Between July 2010 and June 2017, 106 mercury-related projects and programmes had been approved with GEF financing totalling $145 million. The enabling activities supported included Minamata initial assessments and the development of national action plans for artisanal and small-scale gold mining. During the first three years of the GEF-6 period, 68 projects had been approved. On average, the portfolio had leveraged $4 for every GEF dollar from co-financing. The projects were expected to remove 859 tons of mercury, which amounted to around 86 per cent of the corporate target for the GEF-6 period.

10. As at September 2017, out of the 94 countries eligible to access GEF resources according to the eligibility criteria accepted by the GEF Council in January 2015, 89 countries had received funding for enabling activities.

11. In conclusion, she said that GEF remained committed to its role as part of the financial mechanism of the Convention. The outcomes of the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties were very important in informing the future programming priorities and policy strategy of GEF, which looked forward to continuing to work with parties to make mercury history.

12. The representative of Brazil drew attention to a conference room paper submitted by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries with the aim of operationalizing the specific international programme at the current meeting. He said that the two components of the financial mechanism, namely the GEF Trust Fund and the specific international programme, should be discussed together. The conference room paper, which was intended to support those discussions, contained proposed amendments to document UNEP/MC/COP.1/9, which it would be helpful to consider in detail in a contact group. He also drew attention to a related second conference room paper containing corresponding proposed changes to the financial rules contained in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/13.

13. The representative of the European Union and its member States drew attention to a conference room paper submitted by the European Union and its member States on the issue of the guidance to be provided to GEF. He said that, once the outstanding issues related to GEF guidance had been resolved, the Conference of the Parties should adopt, without delay, a brief stand-alone decision on guidance to GEF and forward it to the GEF Council as a replacement for the provisional guidance agreed upon by the intergovernmental negotiating committee. Regarding the specific international programme, the intergovernmental negotiating committee had prepared a draft stand-alone decision, but there were some important issues still to be resolved in that regard.

14. The representative of Argentina drew attention to a conference room paper submitted by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries with the aim of institutionalizing, through the development of terms of reference, the work that had already been carried out by the Basel and Stockholm convention regional centres to build capacity and provide technical assistance related to the Minamata Convention. Another representative, speaking on behalf of the same group of countries, said that the financial mechanism and the work of the regional centres were interlinked and should be discussed together and be the subject of a single draft decision.

15. Two representatives said that their Governments were prepared to accept the removal of the square brackets in the guidance to the GEF as contained in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/8, leaving the text clean. The Committee of the Whole then approved the text of the guidance to GEF, as contained in appendix 1 to the annex of document UNEP/MC/COP.1/8 with the removal of the square brackets around paragraph 4, and decided to submit it to the Conference of the Parties for consideration and possible adoption.

16. Following its discussion, the Committee agreed to establish a contact group on the financial mechanism, co-chaired by Mr. Greg Filyk (Canada) and Ms. Gillian Guthrie (Jamaica), which would further consider the decision on the guidance to the GEF and the specific international programme, taking into account the discussions in the Committee and the related conference room papers submitted by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries and the European Union and its member States, and documents UNEP/MC/COP.1/8, UNEP/MC/COP.1/9 and UNEP/MC/COP.1/9/Add.1. It was also agreed that the conference room paper submitted by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries on regional centres would be discussed informally, with the representative of Argentina serving as a facilitator.

17. The co-chair of the contact group on the financial mechanism subsequently introduced a draft decision on the specific international programme and outlined its elements as well as several issues on which consensus had not yet been reached. The Chair informed the meeting that one more delegation had now joined the consensus on certain elements of the draft decision, due to the conclusion of discussions concerning the secretariat, and enquired whether the remaining brackets could be removed. One representative, speaking also on behalf of a number of non-Party countries, expressed their wish to retain their proposal that signatories to the Convention be eligible for funding from the specific international programme to support technical assistance and capacity-building activities, provided that the country was taking meaningful steps toward becoming a party as evidenced by a letter from the relevant minister to the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme. This would augment efforts in those countries to understand their commitments should they become a party and would probably assist efforts within those countries to ratify the Convention.

18. Given that consensus could not be reached on the issue and on the question of whether only parties could serve on the governing board of the specific international programme, but consensus did exist on all other aspects of the draft decision, the Committee agreed to forward a draft decision on the specific international programme to the Conference of the Parties.

19. Following the discussions of the contact group, the Committee approved a draft decision on guidance to GEF for consideration and possible adoption by the Conference of the Parties.

20. Following the informal consultations on the draft decision on regional centres, the Committee approved for consideration by the Conference of the Parties a revised version of the draft decision, which was contained in the conference room paper.

3. The membership of the Implementation and Compliance Committee as referred to in paragraph 3 of article 15

23. The representative of the secretariat, introducing the sub-item, drew attention to the latest version of a draft reporting format for the Minamata Convention as reviewed by the intergovernmental negotiating committee at its seventh session and a proposed draft decision on the timing and format of reporting by the parties, as set out in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/11.

24. In the ensuing discussion, most of the representatives who took the floor, including several speaking on behalf of groups of countries, stressed that regular reporting by parties on the measures taken to implement the provisions of the Minamata Convention and on the effectiveness of such measures and possible challenges in meeting that objective was crucial to evaluating the Convention’s effectiveness and to ensuring that parties received adequate assistance to overcome difficulties in fulfilling their obligations. One said that eliciting reports from non-parties as well would help to expand the coverage and better identify the difficulties; another asked for the reporting format to be made available in all the official languages of the United Nations as soon as possible; another suggested fostering close cooperation with the other chemicals and waste conventions, which, according to one representative, would also make it possible to capitalize on synergies and harmonize existing reporting tools. Some representatives said that lessons could be learned from the low reporting rates under some of those conventions.

25. Many representatives called for an emphasis on the provision of technical and financial support to assist developing countries in gathering data and completing the reporting format. Some identified small island developing States as priority recipients.

26. On the draft reporting format, several representatives stressed that it was important to avoid overburdening the reporting parties. Some representatives, including one speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that the format needed to be simple; others expressed a preference for electronic reporting. Regarding the information elicited, one representative suggested the inclusion of data on financial resources and mechanisms; another, said that it should cover human health issues; while a third cautioned against seeking to go beyond the scope of the Convention. Some representatives, including one speaking on behalf of a group of countries, questioned the relevance of some of the areas covered. The representative speaking on behalf of a group of countries also asked for the format to provide respondents with the possibility to include comments and observations on specific questions, and another representative said that it was important to avoid duplication.

27. On the question of frequency, most of the representatives who spoke said that a four-year cycle would be suitable for general reporting. Many representatives, including one speaking on behalf of a group of countries, called for annual reporting on key issue areas, such as mercury supply, trade and waste, which, according to one, would help to tackle the problem of dumping in countries that were net importers and users and, according to the representatives of the non-governmental organizations, would improve government responses to such challenges. Another representative, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, suggested that initial reporting should be completed before the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties, also suggesting that the frequency of reporting should be aligned with that of the meetings of the Conference of the Parties. One representative, supported by another, suggested that parties should submit their first report one year after the entry into force of the Convention, on the understanding that it would not be used to assess the parties’ compliance with the Convention.

28. The representative of the European Union and its member States introduced a conference room paper presenting the rationale for a four-year cycle for general reporting plus annual reporting on key aspects, such as trade, supply sources and waste, and suggesting ways to update the reporting format and questionnaire instructions accordingly. Several representatives endorsed the paper as a basis for further discussion.

29. A representative of a non-governmental organization said that capacity-building and training were a good use of resources and urged the Conference of the Parties to support the provision of financial assistance under the specific international programme. Another stressed that annual reporting, in particular on production and waste, must be made mandatory.

30. Many representatives, including a number speaking on behalf of a group of countries, expressed a desire to further discuss and amend the proposed draft reporting format and draft decision in a contact group. Two representatives said that the group should focus solely on bracketed text. Another, however, said that the text should be considered in its entirety in order not to neglect possible interlinkages between bracketed and non-bracketed parts.

31. The Committee of the Whole agreed to establish a contact group, co-chaired by Ms. Silvija Kalnins (Latvia) and Mr. David Kapindula (Zambia), to address the outstanding issues in the reporting format and to finalize the draft decision on the timing and format of reporting by the parties for further consideration and approval by the Committee, taking into account the discussions in the Committee and the conference room paper introduced by the European Union and its member States. The group would focus primarily on the bracketed text but should keep an open mind in considering also unbracketed text in situations where it might help to resolve issues related to the bracketed text.

32. Following the discussions of the contact group, the Committee approved a draft decision on timing and format of reporting by the parties for consideration and possible adoption by the Conference of the Parties.

5. The establishment of arrangements in regard to effectiveness evaluation as referred to in paragraph 2 of article 22

33. Introducing the sub-item, the representative of the secretariat drew attention to the note by the secretariat on the establishment of arrangements in regard to effectiveness evaluation as referred to in paragraph 2 of article 22, set out in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/12. The note, prepared by the secretariat in response to a request by the intergovernmental negotiating committee, contained a draft road map with activities to be carried out in the period between the first and second meetings of the Conference of the Parties to provide comparable monitoring data for the evaluation of the Convention’s effectiveness (annex I) and a report containing recommendations on the establishment of arrangements for the provision of such comparable monitoring data (annex II). The Conference of the Parties was being asked to consider the draft road map and a process to assemble the scientific, environmental, technical, financial and economic information upon which the effectiveness evaluation would be based in accordance with paragraph 3 of article 22 of the Convention.

34. The representative of Canada then introduced a conference room paper that built on the secretariat’s proposed road map and included four elements, namely, work to be conducted by the ad hoc expert group suggested by the secretariat, which focused on establishing global monitoring arrangements for the effectiveness evaluation of the Convention; draft terms of reference for the ad hoc expert group; an overall approach for the evaluation of the Convention’s effectiveness with indicative timelines aligned with those of the Convention; and a draft decision on effectiveness evaluation. It was to be hoped, he said, that the conference room paper, on which several representatives had made suggestions for improvement, would be used as the basis for further discussion in a contact group.

35. In the ensuing discussion, several representatives said that the evaluation of the Convention’s effectiveness was of paramount importance and the Conference of the Parties must work on the necessary arrangements at the current meeting. Many representatives also expressed support for basing further discussions on the conference room paper developed by Canada.

36. One representative, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that monitoring was costly and the Conference of the Parties should therefore define the minimum level of monitoring required to ensure a sufficiently robust evaluation of the Convention’s effectiveness, which would rely heavily on information reported by parties under article 21. Such evaluation should take into account the laboratory capabilities of developing countries; focus on background mercury levels and on trends and the expected impacts of such trends on future mercury levels in the environment, biota and populations; and use 2013, which was the year the Convention had been adopted, as a baseline.

37. One representative said there was a need to take into account the limited ability of parties to compare levels and movements of mercury in environmental media, biota and vulnerable populations prior to and after the implementation of the Convention. Another said that article 22 referred to the evaluation of the Convention as a whole and the arrangements for financial assistance, technology transfer and capacity-building were policy issues that formed part of the evaluation.

38. Several representatives expressed support for the establishment of the ad hoc group of experts proposed in the secretariat’s road map. A number made suggestions regarding the composition of, and the kinds of expertise needed within, the group. One representative said that the group should have expertise on artisanal small-scale mining, mercury waste, contaminated sites, trade, mercury-added products and interim storage. Another said it should include representatives of academia and civil society. A third suggested that two expert groups should be established, one with expertise in measurements and modelling, which should develop a global mercury monitoring strategy, and another with expertise in evaluation matters, which should develop parameters and performance indicators to undertake the wide-ranging evaluation under article 22. Another representative suggested that the proposed expert group should focus on identifying available and comparable data before undertaking the other tasks suggested in the draft road map prepared by the secretariat.

39. Two representatives said that the Minamata Convention could benefit greatly from the lessons learned under the Stockholm Convention related to global monitoring and effectiveness evaluation.

40. Representatives of intergovernmental organizations then made statements. The representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that her organization had extensive expertise in mercury biomonitoring and was ready to offer such expertise to the proposed ad hoc expert group, should the group be created, and drew attention to the global database of chemical contaminants in food managed by WHO, which contained mercury data related to food intended for human consumption. The representative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) drew attention to a global review of mercury monitoring networks and a compilation of laboratory capacities across regions to identify and quantify mercury in biotic and abiotic samples, set out in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/INF/15.

41. Representatives of non-governmental organizations then made statements. Two representatives said the proposed ad hoc group of experts should include representatives of Governments, academia and civil society, and have expertise in monitoring and the range of environmental, technical, financial and economic issues that would need to be examined to evaluate the Convention’s effectiveness. They further suggested that the group develop a method to collect, integrate and use non-monitoring data before the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties.

42. One representative drew attention to four scientific papers developed for policymakers by a group of scientists, which were available at the current meeting and would be made available on the Minamata Convention website. Another representative said that health-related indicators on exposure, monitoring and action should be developed and that it was crucial that the capacities of laboratories be strengthened to enable biomonitoring, including of humans.

43. Following the discussion, the Committee agreed to refer the sub-item to the contact group dealing with reporting, as described in paragraph 28 of the present report, for further discussion, and to ask the group to agree on an approach on the establishment of arrangements for the provision of comparable monitoring data; agree on work to be undertaken during the period between the first and second meetings of the Conference of the Parties; consider further work needed related to effectiveness evaluation; and prepare a draft decision on effectiveness evaluation for consideration by the Committee using the conference room paper prepared by Canada as a basis for the discussion.

44. Subsequently, the co-chair of the contact group reported that the group had prepared a draft decision on effectiveness evaluation containing two annexes, the first of which set out the secretariat’s draft road map with activities to be carried out in the period between the first and second meetings of the Conference of the Parties, and the second of which included the terms of reference for the ad hoc expert group mentioned in that road map.

45. Following the discussions of the contact group, the Committee approved a draft decision on the establishment of arrangements in regard to effectiveness evaluation for consideration and possible adoption by the Conference of the Parties.

6. Financial rules for the Conference of the Parties and any of its subsidiary bodies, as well as financial provisions governing the functioning of the secretariat, as referred to in paragraph 4 of article 23

46. The representative of the secretariat introduced the sub-item, outlining the information on draft financial rules for the Conference of the Parties and any of its subsidiary bodies, as well as financial provisions governing the functioning of the secretariat of the Convention, set out in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/13, and on the relationship between UNEP and the multilateral environmental agreements for which it provided the secretariat, set out in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/INF/9.

47. One representative, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that while the financial rules had been largely agreed at sessions of the intergovernmental negotiating committee, it was still necessary to ensure that they adequately reflected the policy decisions that were going to be taken with regard to the secretariat, particularly on the host country contribution, and that they did not leave room for interpretation. The financial rules would also have to reflect the policy decisions taken with regard to the specific international programme and the provision of resources to support technical assistance and capacity-building in accordance with article 13 of the Convention.

48. One representative, referring to two conference room papers submitted by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries - the first on the specific international programme, and the second on the financial rules - highlighted the linkage between the specific international programme and the formulation of the financial rules.

49. Following its discussion, the Committee agreed to refer consideration of the issue to the contact group on programme of work, financial rules and budget, to be co-chaired by Mr. Reginald Hernaus (Netherlands) and Mr. Sam Adu-Kumi (Ghana).

50. Subsequently, the Committee considered and approved a draft decision on the draft financial rules prepared by the contact group on programme of work, financial rules and budget for consideration by the Conference of the Parties, noting that the financial rules contained text in brackets relating to the differential treatment of developing countries, least developed countries and small island developing States that the contact group had been unable to agree upon.

B. Matters stipulated by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries
1. Provisions for the functions of the permanent secretariat of the Minamata Convention

51. The Deputy Executive Director introduced the revised report on proposals on how the Executive Director of UNEP would perform the functions of the permanent secretariat for the Convention, set out in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/14, providing an overview of the three options presented in the revised report. Option 1 (a) would merge the secretariat functions of the Minamata Convention into the secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, utilizing its current structure in Geneva; option 1 (b) would merge the secretariat of the Minamata Convention into the secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions by creating, in the interim, a Minamata Convention branch, also in Geneva; while option 2 would establish a standalone secretariat of the Minamata Convention, with the location to be determined on the basis of an analysis of the following UNEP duty stations: Bangkok; Geneva; Nairobi; Osaka, Japan; Vienna; Washington, D.C.

52. The representative of Switzerland made a presentation on his Government’s offer to host the permanent secretariat in Geneva (UNEP/MC/COP.1/INF/7) and clarification provided by the Government of Switzerland following consideration of the offer by the intergovernmental negotiating committee at its seventh session (UNEP/MC/COP.1/INF/8).

53. During the ensuing discussion, many representatives, including two speaking on behalf of groups of countries, offered their views on whether the secretariat of the Minamata Convention should be fully integrated, as in option 1 (a) or partially integrated, as in option 1 (b), with the secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions or be an entirely separate entity, as in option 2. Many of them, including one speaking on behalf of a group of countries, supported complete integration with the secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions to take full advantage of synergies arising from working in close collaboration with the other conventions in the chemicals and waste cluster, and to enable the nascent convention to benefit from the experience of the well-established secretariat. A representative speaking on behalf of a group of countries specified, however, that his support of full integration of the secretariats did not imply support for merging the meetings of the Conference of the Parties with those of the conferences of the parties of the other conventions, which, he said, was a separate issue and should not be confused with a decision on the structure and location of the secretariat. He also suggested that the Conference of the Parties should consider how to enhance cooperation and coordination within the chemicals and waste cluster and provide the Executive Director of UNEP with clear policy direction on the matter.

54. A number of representatives took the opposite view, however, contending that integration could reduce the secretariat’s profile and the attention the Convention would receive, and limit the secretariat’s effectiveness in supporting the Conference of the Parties and achieving the objectives of the Convention. As a new treaty, they said, the Minamata Convention needed the undivided attention of a single secretariat, as in option 2, at least in its early years, in order to achieve greater political visibility and make its mark.

55. Many of those who spoke, including one speaking on behalf of a group of countries, supported partial integration, namely option 1 (b), as a middle ground that would provide the Convention with the benefits of synergies and experience while preserving a certain degree of autonomy. Two representatives indicated their preference to discuss the matter further before taking a stance, with one stressing the need to consider jointly other important aspects such as the financial mechanism. A third representative sought clarification on whether Switzerland’s offer of funding in relation to a stand-alone secretariat included the host Government’s assessed contribution, and what the difference would be in parties’ assessed contributions for the three options presented.

56. At the suggestion of the Chair, the Committee agreed to establish a Friends of the Chair group to discuss the matters of the provisions for the functions of the permanent secretariat of the Minamata Convention and the physical location of the permanent secretariat further. Subsequently, the Chair asked Mr. Yingxian Xia (China) and Mr. Sverre Thomas Jahre (Norway) to facilitate further informal consultations on the issue.

57. Subsequently, the Chair informed the Committee that the Friends of the Chair group had been unable to reach agreement on the sub-item. Expressing appreciation to the group’s co-facilitators, he said that a group of countries had prepared a proposal on a possible way forward and invited the proponents to introduce it.

58. The representative of Costa Rica introduced a draft decision on the secretariat submitted by Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Zambia, as well two non-parties, Chile and Colombia, which was contained in a conference room paper. She said that the draft decision had been prepared as a transitional solution with regard to the location of and arrangements for the secretariat. In the draft decision, the Conference of the Parties requested the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme to continue to provide the services of the secretariat in Geneva; welcomed Switzerland’s offer to host the secretariat in Geneva and its annual host country contribution of 1 million Swiss francs; agreed to review the organizational arrangements of the secretariat at the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties; and asked the secretariat to cooperate and collaborate with the secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions and with relevant UNEP units in the period between the first and second meetings of the Conference of the Parties.

59. In the ensuing discussion, many representatives expressed support for the draft decision and the way forward proposed therein, stressing their regret that agreement had not been reached on final arrangements for the secretariat at the current meeting and expressing the hope that agreement would be reached at the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties.

60. Clarification was sought from the proponents as to whether the proposed decision deferred the final decision on the secretariat location to the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties, or whether Geneva was being selected as the location of the permanent secretariat at the current meeting and only the specific arrangements for the secretariat’s structure and functioning would be reviewed at the second meeting.

61. Three of the proponents said that Geneva should be selected as the permanent secretariat’s location and only the arrangements for the secretariat should be decided at the second meeting. Another proponent suggested subsequently that Geneva would be the interim location of the secretariat and the Conference of the Parties would make a final decision on the location of and arrangements for the secretariat at its second meeting.

62. One representative said that the Conference of the Parties had not agreed on the location of the permanent secretariat at the present meeting and that the draft decision should clearly provide that the issue of location, along with the other secretariat arrangements, would need to be reviewed and decided upon by the Conference of the Parties at its second meeting.

63. At the request of the Chair, the representative of the United States subsequently presented a conference room paper that introduced a number of changes to the draft decision and clarified that the location of and arrangements for the permanent secretariat would be decided upon by the Conference of the Parties at its second meeting.

64. Most of the representatives who spoke, including one speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that Geneva represented the ideal location for the secretariat - facilitating coordination between the secretariat and member States through their permanent missions in Geneva and between the secretariat of the Minamata Convention and that of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions and other Geneva-based institutions dealing with chemicals and waste - and should be selected as such.

65. One representative said that defining the location of and arrangements for the permanent secretariat was key to enabling the secretariat to support parties and non-parties in the implementation of the multiple technical decisions that would be adopted at the current meeting and that not defining such issues would weaken the ability of countries to implement those decisions and deter non-parties from accelerating their ratification of the Convention. Another representative said that due consideration should be given to selecting Geneva as the location of the permanent secretariat, particularly given that Switzerland had offered a generous contribution to host the secretariat.

66. One representative asked whether the host country contribution of 1 million Swiss francs welcomed in the draft decision would be Switzerland’s host country contribution irrespective of what was decided at the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties. In that regard, he said that it was important to determine how the host country contribution would be divided between the Special Trust Fund and the General Trust Fund. Another representative, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, asked whether Switzerland would consider providing an additional 500,000 Swiss francs to the core budget as part of its host country contribution.

67. One of the proponents of the draft decision said that the amount of the host country contribution would be revised by the Conference of the Parties at its second meeting.

68. The representative of Switzerland clarified that Switzerland’s offer to provide 1 million Swiss francs to the specific international programme depended on whether a “good solution” on the secretariat was adopted at the current meeting. The decision to host the secretariat in Geneva for one year, he said, did not constitute a “good solution” given that it would leave the secretariat with considerable uncertainty and make it difficult for the secretariat to attract qualified staff.

69. Following informal consultations between interested parties, the Committee approved a decision on the secretariat in which the Conference of the Parties decided, among other things, to request the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme to perform the functions of the secretariat “initially through” a secretariat located in Geneva and to review the organizational arrangements for the secretariat, including its location and the host country contribution, at its second meeting.

70. Following the approval of the decision, the representative of Switzerland expressed appreciation to those who had developed the compromise text and said that Switzerland accepted the draft decision but would have preferred a final decision on the secretariat in order to set the Convention on a more solid foundation and facilitate the conduct of the important work that lay ahead.

2. Draft memorandum of understanding between the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention and the Council of the Global Environment Facility

71. Introducing the sub-item, the representative of the secretariat outlined the information set out in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/15, which contained, in its annex I, a draft decision for consideration by the Conference of the Parties, and, in annex II, the updated text of the draft memorandum of understanding between the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention and the Council of the Global Environment Facility. The memorandum had been considered by the intergovernmental negotiating committee, noting its non-legally binding nature at its seventh session and revisions had been made subsequently following comments by one member of the GEF Council and a review of these comments by the legal office of UNEP and the GEF secretariat. The revisions that had been made were highlighted on the cover page of the document.

72. In the ensuing discussion, one representative, supported by another, said that, regrettably, the decision-making process regarding access to international financial resources and technology transfer continued to be politicized. One representative said that the text of the memorandum of understanding should contain a provision on avoiding such politicization, while another noted that it was important for countries to receive guidance on how to fill out forms requesting financial support for projects.

73. Following its discussion, the Committee agreed that the contact group on the financial mechanism would further consider the draft memorandum of understanding, as well as the related draft decision contained in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/15.

74. Subsequently, the co-chair of the contact group on the financial mechanism reported that additional text had been proposed for the draft memorandum of understanding with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the related draft decision but that the group had been unable to reach agreement on the proposals.

75. In the ensuing discussion, one representative, supported by another, took the floor to express concern that some countries had seen their project proposals rejected or not considered by the GEF Council on what appeared to be political grounds, unrelated to the goal of meeting the objectives of the concerned multilateral environmental agreements. It was crucial, they said, for that concern to be reflected and addressed in the draft memorandum of understanding so as to ensure that no such politicization of decision-making and funding allocations take place under the Minamata Convention.

76. The Chair assured the parties that their concerns would be put to the President of the Conference of the Parties, the Chief Executive Officer of GEF, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme and the relevant ministers present at the current meeting.

77. Subsequently, the Chair informed the Committee that agreement had not been reached in the informal consultations on the suggested additional paragraphs that remained in brackets. The Committee agreed to forward to the Conference of the Parties for its consideration the draft memorandum of understanding, including the bracketed text.

C. Matters recommended by the intergovernmental negotiating committee

1. Guidance document on the preparation of national action plans for artisanal and small-scale gold mining

78. The representative of the secretariat drew attention to the draft guidance document on the preparation of national action plans for artisanal and small-scale gold mining set out in annex II to document UNEP/MC/COP.1/17 and information on draft guidance developed by WHO on addressing health aspects in the context of developing national action plans for artisanal and small-scale gold mining contained in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/INF.12.

79. Noting that paragraph 3 (a) of article 7 of the Minamata Convention required that each party with more than insignificant artisanal and small-scale gold mining and processing in its territory develop and implement a national action plan in accordance with Annex C to the Convention, she recalled that at its seventh session, the international negotiating committee had agreed to the provisional use of the guidance in its then-current form to assist countries in the preparation of national action plans in the period between that session and the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties. The Committee had also requested the secretariat to seek further comments from Governments and others to improve the guidance with a view to presenting a revised version for consideration and possible adoption by the Conference of the Parties. The interim secretariat had invited Governments and others to provide such information and also consulted with regions and subregions on the content of the guidance as part of workshops addressing, among others, issues relating to artisanal and small-scale gold mining. The revised guidance document on the preparation of national action plans was set out in annex II to document UNEP/MC/COP.1/17.

80. The Committee approved a draft decision on a guidance document on the preparation of national action plans for artisanal and small-scale gold mining, and the accompanying guidance document, as contained in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/17, for consideration and possible adoption by the Conference of the Parties.

2. Physical location of the permanent secretariat

81. The Deputy Executive Director introduced the issue as set out in chapter II, section B, part 1, on provisions for the functions of the permanent secretariat of the Minamata Convention, above.

82. The representative of Switzerland made a presentation on the offer to host the permanent secretariat in Geneva as set out in chapter II, section B, part 1, above.

83. Many representatives, including two speaking on behalf of groups of countries, took the floor to give their views on where the permanent secretariat of the Convention should be located. Most were supportive and appreciative of Switzerland’s offer to host the secretariat in Geneva, in many cases because they also supported some level of integration with the secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions. Other reasons cited were the physical proximity of many United Nations entities, international agencies, countries’ diplomatic representations, Switzerland’s strong history as a host country, and the fact that Switzerland was the only country that had offered to host the secretariat.

84. A number of representatives expressed reservations regarding the location of the secretariat in Geneva while indicating their willingness to discuss the matter. Three representatives noted the relative costs of the different UNEP duty stations, with one suggesting Nairobi as a suitable alternative and another seeking clarification on the differences between Geneva and the other duty stations. One representative stressed the need to take other important aspects, such as the financial mechanism, into consideration when deciding where to locate the secretariat.

85. As mentioned in paragraph 56 of the present report, at the suggestion of the Chair, the Committee agreed to establish a Friends of the Chair group to discuss the matters of the provisions for the functions of the permanent secretariat of the Minamata Convention and the physical location of the permanent secretariat further. Subsequently, the Chair asked Mr. Yingxian Xia (China) and Mr. Sverre Thomas Jahre (Norway) to facilitate further informal consultations on the issue.

86. Discussions on the physical location of the secretariat were closely linked to those regarding the provisions for the functions of the permanent secretariat of the Minamata Convention as set out in section B, part 1, of chapter II, above.

87. The Committee approved a decision on the secretariat, in which the Conference of the Parties decided, among other things, to request the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme to perform the functions of the secretariat initially through a secretariat located in Geneva and to review the organizational arrangements for the secretariat, including its location and the host country contribution, at its second meeting.

3. Consideration of the report on open burning

88. The representative of the secretariat introduced the sub-item, outlining the information set out in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/19, including the report on mercury emissions related to the open burning of waste set out in the annex thereto.

89. There was consensus among the representatives who spoke that the matter of open burning of waste was of great importance, with mercury being only one of a range of pollutants emitted by the activity. A number of representatives highlighted that the issue was of particular concern in developing countries, where open burning of waste was often unregulated and uncontrolled; that it was very difficult to assess the scale and nature of the problem and that waste was generally not separated. In that regard, there was a clear need for further accurate information, and a number of countries had started to prepare inventories of mercury emissions and releases in order to more clearly define the challenge being faced. One representative, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, supported the suggestion that the secretariat continue to compile information on emissions from open burning as part of its overall consideration of the inventories submitted by countries, while proposing that that information be gathered from other sources as well.

90. Several representatives noted that during the conduct of their Minamata initial assessments, they had realized that open burning was an important source of mercury releases in their countries. One representative said that the Minamata initial assessments could be an important component of waste management systems in general. The representative of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) said that while data were still not adequate to make a detailed assessment of mercury emissions from open burning, he encouraged early action to combat the problem.

91. Regarding the timeline for further consideration of the information gathered by the secretariat, one representative suggested a longer period to allow time for sufficient information to be compiled, with submission to the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, while a number of representatives said that the urgency of the matter required a shorter timeline, with reporting as early as the second meeting. One representative called for early dissemination of the information gathered to all parties to inform national action. One representative, speaking on behalf of a non-governmental organization, stated that the fact that full information was not available should not be taken as a reason to defer consideration of the matter.

92. Several representatives said that developing countries were severely hampered by the lack of availability of techniques for the collection of accurate data, and called on developed country partners and donors for assistance with technology transfer and capacity-building. One representative of a non-governmental organization highlighted the matter of medical waste, which was a complex area requiring technological solutions. Another representative said that campaigns were needed at the national level to raise awareness of the dangers posed by open burning.

93. Some representatives noted the opportunity for synergies with the Stockholm Convention, given that the text of that Convention included reference to open burning as a source of persistent organic pollutants, and the guidelines on best available techniques and best environmental practices contained guidance on the open burning of waste. One representative proposed the formulation of a toolkit on mercury emissions similar to the Stockholm Convention Toolkit for Identification and Quantification of Releases of Dioxins, Furans and Other Unintentional POPs.

94. The Committee of the Whole agreed to request the secretariat to develop, in consultation with interested delegations, a draft decision reflecting the debate on mercury emissions related to the open burning of waste, which would be submitted to the Committee for its consideration.

95. The Committee approved a draft decision on mercury emissions related to the open burning of waste for consideration and possible adoption by the Conference of the Parties.

D. Programme of work of the secretariat and budget for the period 2018–2019

96. Introducing the sub-item, the representative of the secretariat drew attention to notes by the secretariat on a progress report on the work of the interim secretariat in the period since the seventh session of the intergovernmental negotiating committee (UNEP/MC/COP.1/20); the programme of work of the secretariat and budget for the period 2018–2019 (UNEP/MC/COP.1/21), which she said was based on best estimates with regard to the priorities of the programme of work and budget for 2018–2019 that took into account the text of the Convention and information gathered by the interim secretariat since 2010; and four addendums to document UNEP/MC/COP.1/21 which provided, respectively, details on the proposed budget (UNEP/MC/COP.1/Add.1), an overview of the resources required for staffing (UNEP/MC/COP.1/Add.2), an overview on the indicative scale of assessments (UNEP/MC/COP.1/Add.3), and an overview of the resources required for each of the proposed options for the secretariat (UNEP/MC/COP.1/Add.4). Document UNEP/MC/COP.1/21 further incorporated a draft decision on the programme of work and budget for consideration by the Conference of the Parties.

97. She also drew attention to notes by partner organizations on their activities related to the Minamata Convention.

98. In the ensuing discussion, several representatives, including two speaking on behalf of groups of countries noted that it would be important to approve a programme of work and budget that allowed a permanent secretariat to conduct its work effectively. It was acknowledged that the budget would necessarily reflect decisions on other issues, including, inter alia, the location of the secretariat, level of host-country support, arrangements for the specific international programme, and the programme of work, including mandates for intersessional work. One representative suggested that it would be useful for participants in the budget discussion to separate issues that depended on the location of the secretariat from issues that were not.

99. One representative called for a realistic budget while another, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, underscored that the budget needed to be affordable and supported by the timely contributions by all parties. While expressing appreciation for the work of the interim secretariat, some representatives, including one speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that further discussions required additional information, including, inter alia, detailed activity sheets; more details regarding the programme of work; and explanations for the relatively high projected costs of meetings and staff and the inconsistencies among the different budget documents, including the use of different methodologies to calculate staff costs. One of these representatives introduced a conference room paper outlining some of these concerns.

100. One representative, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, expressed support for a programme of work and budget that would enable the realization of the Convention’s objectives and provide the secretariat with sufficient resources to allow for it to be efficient and effective in fulfilling its mandate and to adequately address the interests of countries in his region. As many activities were to be undertaken for the first time, given the recent entry into force of the Convention, aspects of the design and implementation of applicable activities within the programme of work should rely on the experience and success of the secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions. The budget discussion should include consideration of the division of the contributions of the host country between the general and voluntary special trust funds, contributions to special funds to address specific technical and implementation issues, and sufficient support for the specific international programme. Adequate support for technical assistance and capacity-building should be included within the budget and programme of work, including the work mandated by the outcome of the discussions on technical issues. Another representative, said that it would be understandable if certain elements of the budget exceeded the norms in other conventions given that work under the Minamata Convention was just beginning. Such costs should, however, decline as its operations matured.

101. The representative of the secretariat said that, in response to the concerns expressed by some parties that more information was needed on the proposed programme of work and budget and in order to facilitate the contact group discussions on those issues, the secretariat had provided two reference documents to the Conference of the Parties at its first meeting. The first provided additional details on the programme of work and activities being proposed and on their related budget, while the second document provided further details on the calculation of the secretariat costs, including staff costs for its location in Geneva, and information on the potential impact of the host country’s contribution on the Convention’s core budget and the assessed contributions towards the General Trust Fund.

102. Representatives of the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC), the secretariat of the Aarhus Convention and its Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Permanent Secretariat of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty then made statements, outlining activities carried out by their organizations which related to mercury and which supported, or could support, the ratification and implementation of the Minamata Convention. A representative of the Global Mercury Partnership Advisory Group also made a statement on the activities of the Partnership.

103. Following the discussion, the Conference agreed to defer consideration of the programme of work and budget and the related draft decision to a contact group on programme of work, financial rules and budget to be co-chaired by Mr. Reginald Hernaus (Netherlands) and Mr. Sam Adu-Kumi (Ghana).

104. Subsequently, the Chair drew attention to a conference room paper submitted by the group of Latin American and Caribbean States on regional and subregional centres for capacity-building, technical assistance and technology transfer relevant to the Minamata Convention on Mercury. One representative said that time constraints had not permitted comments her delegation had transmitted to its proposers to be addressed and thus her delegation could not yet support the draft decision. At the suggestion of the Chair, the Committee agreed that interested representatives would engage in informal consultations and report back to the Committee.

105. Subsequently, the Committee approved a draft decision on a draft budget and programme of work prepared by the contact group on programme of work, financial rules and budget. for consideration and possible adoption by the Conference of the Parties.

III. Matters stipulated by the Convention for action by the Conference of the Parties (agenda item 6)

106. The representative of the secretariat introduced document UNEP/MC/COP.1/22, a compilation document that briefly presented the areas of the Convention text where the Conference of the Parties was required to take action at some point. The document covered matters relating to article 3 on mercury supply sources and trade (agenda item 6 (a)), article 4 on mercury-added products (agenda items 6 (b) and 6 (c)), article 5 on manufacturing processes in which mercury or mercury compounds were used (agenda item 6 (d)), article 14 on capacity-building, technical assistance and technology transfer (agenda item 6 (j)) and article 16 on health issues (agenda item 6 (k)).

A. Consideration of whether trade in specific mercury compounds compromises the objective of the Convention and whether specific mercury compounds should, by their listing in an additional annex adopted in accordance with article 27, be made subject to paragraphs 6 and 8 of article 3

107. Introducing the sub-item, the representative of the secretariat explained that in relation to article 3, the Convention text required that the Conference of the Parties evaluate whether trade in specific mercury compounds compromised the objective of the Convention, and whether specific mercury compounds should, by their listing in an additional annex to the Convention, be made subject to paragraphs 6 and 8 of article 3. She also noted that UNEP had produced in 2006 a report on the trade in mercury entitled Summary of Supply, Trade and Demand Information on Mercury, which had since been updated. Subsequently, responding to a concern raised by a representative, she specified that the trade provisions under article 3 related only to elemental mercury, and that trade in mercury-added products fell under article 4.

108. One representative said that for the sake of effective international action on mercury, mercury compounds should be included in the trade restrictions stated in paragraphs 6 and 8 of article 3, and described actions taken by his Government to impose tight trade restrictions on mercury compounds.

109. Another representative suggested that mercury compounds be included in the reviews of annexes A and B, under articles 4 and 5, which would make for a more efficient and cost-effective process.

110. A third representative, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, proposed initiating work on the evaluation referred to in paragraph 13 of article 3, on the basis that recent work, the report of which he offered to share, on the trade in mercury compounds, conducted for the purposes of preparing mercury import and export legislation, had confirmed that such compounds could be traded with the aim of recovering mercury and circumventing controls applying to mercury trade.

111. One representative, recalling that paragraph 13 of article 3 called for the Conference of the Parties to evaluate whether the trade in specific mercury compounds compromised the objective of the Convention, questioned whether such a discussion was appropriate given the small number of parties at this early stage in the life of the Convention. Furthermore, the Conference of the Parties was required to “consider whether specific mercury compounds should, by their listing in an additional annex adopted in accordance with article 27, be made subject to paragraphs 6 and 8”, which would entail an amendment to the Convention. Given the amount of work already on the table for the current meeting and the number of issues already to be considered at the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties, it might be unwise, she suggested, to start any additional work prior to a trade evaluation.

112. A representative of a non-governmental organization suggested that the issue of the trade in mercury compounds be considered in the same time frame as the annex A and B revisions, and that the evaluation process be initiated at the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties. He pointed out that the updated UNEP trade report documented a large volume of trade in mercury compounds, yet no timetable had been provided for the evaluation in the document.

113. The Committee agreed to fully reflect the discussion in the report of its proceedings, and to recommend to the Conference of the Parties that it continue to work on the issue at its future meetings.

B. Reports submitted by parties implementing paragraph 2 of article 4 and review of the effectiveness of the measures

C. The review of Annex A referred to in paragraph 8 of article 4

114. The Committee considered sub-items 6 (b) and 6 (c) jointly.

115. In her introduction, the representative of the secretariat indicated that sub-item 6 (b) referred to reports from parties implementing paragraph 2 of article 4 in relation to mercury-added products, while sub-item (c) related to the future review of annex A, to be undertaken within five years of the entry into force of the Convention, and possible inclusion of new products within the annex. She noted that given the date of entry into force of the Convention, the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties would fall within the five-year time limit and could therefore be considered for the review.

116. One representative, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, supported holding the review at the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, and suggested that the secretariat be mandated to begin the necessary work immediately. Another representative struck a note of caution regarding the amount of work already planned and the need to avoid starting additional work unnecessarily early.

117. The Committee agreed to recommend to the Conference of the Parties that it review annex A at its fourth meeting, in 2021, and that it request the secretariat to take the necessary steps to prepare for such a review.

D. The review of Annex B referred to in paragraph 10 of article 5

118. Introducing the sub-item, the representative of the secretariat explained that it concerned the review of annex B of the Convention relating to manufacturing processes in which mercury or mercury compounds were used, which was very similar to the review of annex A.

119. The Committee agreed to recommend to the Conference of the Parties that it review annex B at its fourth meeting, in 2021, and that it request the secretariat to take the necessary steps to prepare for such a review.

E. The guidance referred to in paragraphs 7 (a) and 7 (b) of article 9

120. The representative of the secretariat introduced a note by the secretariat containing information on guidance to be prepared by the Conference of the Parties on the methodology for preparing inventories of releases from relevant sources, and on best available techniques and best environmental practices for the control of releases from such sources (UNEP/MC/COP.1/24). She recalled that under article 9 of the Convention, on releases, the Conference of the Parties was required to adopt such guidance as soon as practicable. She also noted that the guidance on the methodology for preparing inventories of emissions from the identified sources under article 8, which had already been adopted by the Conference of the Parties, bore some relevance to the work on releases, particularly as one of the tools that could be used considered not only emission but also releases to land, air and water. She further noted that article 9 of the Convention did not include any list of sources of releases, but rather required parties to identify those sources they consider relevant.

121. A number of representatives said that they were in favour of encouraging parties and countries to identify relevant point sources and to submit the information on the identified sources and the annual quantity of releases from such sources to the secretariat as soon as possible, in order to enable the secretariat to compile and analyse the data and provide the appropriate information to the Conference of the Parties at its second meeting. One representative, supported by another speaking on behalf of a group of countries, suggested that once the secretariat had finished compiling the information on relevant point sources, an expert group should be established to assess the information and come up with the best available techniques and best environmental practices for releases from relevant sources, as had previously been done for emissions. He further proposed that the expert group be established at the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties. Another representative also suggested that the secretariat could develop guidance to help parties and countries identify relevant point sources.

122. Three representatives spoke about their experiences to date in identifying point sources of release with the help of the toolkit developed by the secretariat, including one who indicated potential for overestimation of mercury releases from the default release factors in the toolkit, and the need for more detailed quantification of mercury releases using a more precise toolkit.

123. One representative reiterated his country’s concerns in connection with the guidance under article 8, particularly regarding the need to ensure that best available techniques and best environmental practices were relevant to the local conditions; those concerns, he said, also applied to the guidance provided for in article 9.

124. The Committee requested the secretariat to prepare a draft decision for its consideration, taking into account the discussion.

125. The Committee subsequently approved a draft decision, prepared by the secretariat, on guidance in relation to mercury releases for consideration and possible adoption by the Conference of the Parties.

F. The guidelines on the interim storage of mercury and mercury compounds referred to in paragraph 3 of article 10

126. Introducing the sub-item, the representative of the secretariat drew attention to draft guidelines on the interim storage of mercury and mercury compounds, set out in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/25. She recalled the mandate for, and the process that had led to, the elaboration of the draft guidelines on the environmentally sound interim storage of mercury other than mercury waste in their current form, as set out in annex II to document UNEP/MC/COP.1/25.

127. In the ensuing discussion, all the representatives who spoke underscored the importance of the issue and the contribution that appropriate guidelines could make to the effective implementation of the Convention. Expressing support for the work carried out by the secretariat, many representatives, including one speaking on behalf of a group of countries, also offered suggestions for improving the draft guidelines, including, inter alia, augmenting particular technical details; incorporating additional information gathered from parties and relevant experts; including consideration of the varying capacity of parties to implement the guidelines; delineating the importance of risk evaluation with regard to interim storage; addressing the storage of products containing mercury that were awaiting reuse or treatment as waste; examining the relationship between interim storage and production and consumption quantities; clarifying the applicability of different guidelines to mercury and mercury compounds; addressing storage related security issues relevant to the illegal use of mercury in mining activities; addressing introducing time limits on interim storage; addressing issues relevant to storing small quantities of mercury; clarifying key terms, including what constituted a reasonable quantity; addressing additional issues relating to transport; and ensuring that interim storage facilities were decommissioned in an environmentally sound manner.

128. Two representatives emphasized that some parties would require assistance to implement the guidelines effectively, with one encouraging developed country parties to take the lead in implementing the guidelines and providing such assistance in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

129. Following a proposal by the Chair, the Committee of the Whole agreed to establish a contact group, co-chaired by Ms. Karissa Kovner (United States of America) and Ms. Teeraporn Wiriwutikorn (Thailand) to consider a number of technical issues. The group would, among other things, discuss the draft guidelines in more detail and report back to the Committee.

130. Following the discussions of the contact group, the Committee approved a draft decision on draft guidelines on the interim storage of mercury and mercury compounds referred to in paragraph 3 of article 10 for consideration and possible adoption by the Conference of the Parties.

G. The definition of mercury waste thresholds referred to in paragraph 2 of article 11

131. The representative of the secretariat, introducing the sub-item, drew attention to the relevant documents containing a compilation of the additional information on the use of mercury waste thresholds requested by the intergovernmental negotiating committee (UNEP/MC/COP.1/26); the outcomes of the informal intersessional discussions to propose appropriate thresholds, led by Japan, with a proposed draft decision on intersessional arrangements for the period leading up to the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties (UNEP/MC/COP.1/INF/10); and the options for a draft decision on mercury wastes prepared by the intergovernmental negotiating committee at its seventh session (UNEP/MC/COP.1/26/Add.1).

132. The representative of Japan reported briefly on the informal intersessional discussions that had culminated in the recommendations and draft decision on the arrangements for intersessional work on mercury waste thresholds, in particular the establishment of an ad hoc intersessional group of technical experts. He then introduced a conference room paper containing a draft decision on mercury wastes in which the options prepared by the intergovernmental negotiating committee had been incorporated into the draft decision on intersessional arrangements, and in which much of the text remained in square brackets.

133. In the ensuing discussion, general appreciation was expressed to the Government of Japan for organizing the informal discussions to propose mercury waste thresholds, in keeping with article 11 of the Minamata Convention, and for the information contained in the documents before the Committee, including the conference room paper, which, according to one representative, gave parties a clear understanding of the underlying problems. Several representatives said that the paper in particular provided a good basis for further discussion.

134. It was generally agreed that defining mercury waste thresholds was important work, with several representatives stressing that the establishment of sound thresholds was crucial to ensuring the effectiveness of the Convention in protecting human health and the environment against mercury exposure.

135. Many representatives, including one speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that the information provided in the documents would be useful for defining the thresholds. Several, however, said that further clarification and more in-depth work were needed on the questions of, inter alia, whether all three categories of mercury wastes set out in article 11 of the Convention were necessary and conducive to achieving the objectives of the Convention; the types of thresholds, content or leachate; the legal consequences of exceeding or falling short of thresholds; and the importance of ensuring that they were simple and accessible to all parties. Several representatives said that it was important to take into account the individual circumstances and needs of countries, with one adding that some would need help to align their existing mercury waste management standards and guidelines with the Convention.

136. On the proposed intersessional arrangements to continue the work of defining the thresholds, many representatives expressed support for the establishment of an ad hoc intersessional group of technical experts. Many stressed that it was important to ensure the geographic balance of the group; several called for the broad participation of all relevant organizations, civil society and the private sector; some said that non-parties should be included; and one called for small island developing States to be represented. A number of representatives expressed a desire to participate actively in the proposed intersessional working group, which should, according to one representative speaking on behalf of a group of countries, work by electronic means. Some representatives, including one speaking on behalf of a group of countries, suggested that the terms of reference of the group and the type of work to be undertaken should be further discussed in a contact group.

137. One representative, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, observed that experience in the complex work of defining mercury waste thresholds was limited among the parties and signatories to the Minamata Convention and another offered to provide substantial technical support, drawing on his country’s practical and longstanding experience in the management of mercury wastes throughout the supply chain.

138. Meanwhile, support was also expressed for the proposal to apply the Basel Convention technical guidelines for the environmentally sound management of wastes consisting of elemental mercury and wastes containing or contaminated with mercury under the Minamata Convention. One representative, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that it was important to finalize and adopt a draft decision on the matter, based on the options presented in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/26/Add.1. Another representative said that he looked forward to working with the Basel Convention experts.

139. Representatives of non-governmental organizations also made statements. One said that the adoption of weak thresholds risked leaving vast amounts of contaminated wastes, soils and sediments outside of environmentally sound management frameworks. A number suggested technical considerations, such as the purity percentage and concentration rate to distinguish between “mercury waste” and “waste contaminated with mercury”.

140. The Committee agreed to mandate the contact group on technical issues, established as set out in paragraph 129 of the present report, to further discuss the sub-item, based on the documents before the Committee, including the conference room paper submitted by Japan, and taking into account the discussions in the Committee, with a view to resolving the outstanding issues in the documents.

141. Subsequently, the co-chair of the contact group reported that the group had reached agreement on the draft decision on the arrangements for intersessional work on mercury waste thresholds and on the timeline for that work.

142. The Committee approved a draft decision on mercury waste for consideration and possible adoption by the Conference of the Parties.

H. The guidance on the management of contaminated sites referred to in paragraph 3 of article 12

143. The representative of the secretariat drew attention to the guidance on the management of contaminated sites referred to in paragraph 3 of article 12, which was set out in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/27.

144. In the ensuing discussion, many representatives said that it was important to carry out further work on the draft guidance, with several noting that the harmful impact of contaminated sites in their countries underscored the need for urgent action.

145. There was general agreement that a working group of experts should be established to contribute to the development of the draft guidance during the intersessional period, with several representatives, including two speaking on behalf of groups of countries, expressing their willingness to nominate experts for that purpose. One representative said that the group should include experts from both the environment and health sectors, and from developed and developing countries, while two others called for a regionally balanced composition.

146. Several representatives voiced their support for the secretariat’s proposal that the draft guidance should be developed in line with the road map included in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/27, and building on the draft structure and content outlined in that document. One representative, however, expressed concern that the road map was overly ambitious, and suggested, along with two other representatives, that more in-depth talks should be held on the matter in the context of a contact group.

147. Two representatives noted that it would be helpful to develop preventive guidance, while another emphasized that the guidance should be practical. Human health and environmental risk assessments, orientation for the selection of appropriate technologies in developing countries, possible methods for managing contaminated soils, advice on management for countries with limited resources and the threshold concentration or trigger level for further or formal investigation of a site were all cited by individual representatives, including one speaking on behalf of a group of countries, as issues that warranted attention or further consideration in the draft guidance. One representative said that special circumstances, such as war, should be taken into account, while another called for an exploration of financing options for remediation projects. One representative stressed that there was a need to develop guidelines for the management of mercury generated by contaminated soil management activities.

148. Two representatives noted that developing countries, in particular, required technical and financial assistance, and several others highlighted the value of capacity-building and the sharing of best practices and experiences in managing contaminated sites. One representative said that a problem faced by many developing countries was a lack of public awareness of the location of contaminated sites, more often than not because no register of sites had been compiled. Another representative, stressing that registers were vital, said that mechanisms and strategies should be put in place for evaluating and prioritizing contaminated sites.

149. One representative said that, in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/27, the meaning of the phrase “determination of the national level of mercury or mercury compound contamination” should be clarified, as should the stage at which public engagement should be sought in the risk assessment and site management process. Regarding risk assessment, it was appropriate for the guidance to focus on human health and the environment, but there was a need to define the mechanisms for gauging exposure to contamination. The validation of outcomes mentioned in annex III to the document should cover action and follow-up plans, among other things.

150. Several representatives described the efforts made in their countries to manage contaminated sites. In that connection, one representative requested guidance from the secretariat on whether, when the trigger level for further or formal investigation of a site had been reached, that site necessarily had to be closed down and isolated, or whether, if it was an operating mine, for example, it could be granted special dispensation to remain open.

151. Representatives of non-governmental organizations also made statements. One called for it to be acknowledged in the document that dental schools, offices and hospital clinics were sources of contamination. Another, noting that mercury-contaminated sites represented a major source of air, soil and water pollution, said that guidance was urgently required on the management of such sites. Steps should be taken to ensure that guidance was adopted at the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties. Those steps should include the establishment of an expert working group, whose meetings should be face-to-face and open to civil society organizations. Lastly, it was important for countries to develop appropriate measures, including sustainable remediation plans, to protect communities affected by contamination from new primary mercury mining and cinnabar processing plants.

152. Subsequently, the Committee agreed to refer the matter to the contact group on technical issues, established as set out in paragraph 129 of the present report. The contact group was to consider the structure of the guidance on the management of contaminated sites, finalize the road map for the preparation of the guidance document on the management of contaminated sites and prepare a draft decision for the consideration of the Committee of the Whole, based on the information contained in document UNEP/MC/COP.1/27 and the discussions in the Committee.

153. The co-chair of the contact group subsequently reported that the group had finalized a draft decision for consideration by the Committee of the Whole. That decision called for the development of draft guidance on managing contaminated sites. The group had agreed to a schedule of work to be provided as annex I to the decision, and provided the secretariat with general comments on the existing content and structure of the guidance contained in annex II to the decision. Those general comments would be taken into account during the drafting of the guidance document.

154. The Committee approved a draft decision on guidance on the management of contaminated sites, as orally amended, for consideration and possible adoption by the Conference of the Parties. The Committee agreed that the annexes prepared for the present meeting would remain attached to the draft decision and that the secretariat would be entrusted with updating the annexes in accordance with the agreements made at the present meeting.

I. The consideration of capacity-building, technical assistance and technology transfer as referred to in paragraph 4 and paragraph 5 of article 14, including any recommendations on how such activities could be further enhanced under article 14

155. In her introduction to the sub-item, the representative of the secretariat explained that article 14 provided for the Conference of the Parties, by its second meeting and thereafter on a regular basis, to consider information on existing initiatives and progress made in relation to alternative technologies and the needs of parties, particularly developing-country parties, for alternative technologies, and to identify challenges experienced by parties, particularly developing-country parties, in technology transfer.

156. The Committee agreed to recommend to the Conference of the Parties that it request the secretariat to seek submissions and reports from parties and other stakeholders on issues relating to existing initiatives and progress made in relation to alternative technologies, on the needs of parties, particularly developing-country parties, for alternative technologies and on challenges experienced by parties, particularly developing-country parties, in technology transfer, and to present the information received to the Conference of the Parties at its second meeting for consideration.

157. Subsequently, a representative of a non-governmental organization pointed out that more would be required than a simple compilation of information by the secretariat in order to set the stage for such an assessment.

J. Consultation and collaboration with the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organization and other relevant intergovernmental organizations, and promotion of cooperation and exchange of information, as appropriate, in relation to health-related issues or activities, as referred to in paragraph 2 of article 16

158. Introducing the sub-item, the representative of the secretariat indicated that article 16 required the Conference of the Parties, in considering health-related issues or activities, to consult and collaborate with WHO, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and other relevant intergovernmental organizations, and to promote cooperation and information exchange with such organizations, as appropriate.

159. A representative of WHO made a statement expressing appreciation to the Minamata interim secretariat for its collaboration on a number of fronts, and indicating that WHO would be pleased to collaborate in the preparation of a joint work plan once the permanent secretariat had been established.

160. One representative, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, thanked WHO for cooperating and working with the secretariat and asked that the two entities continue their collaboration. Another representative expressed concern at a perceived absence of ILO at the global level, and asked that the secretariat encourage the involvement of that organization in implementing the Convention at the global, regional, subregional and national levels.

161. The Committee agreed to recommend to the Conference of the Parties that it request the secretariat to continue to actively engage in cooperation and collaboration with WHO, ILO and other relevant organizations in the implementation of the Minamata Convention.