This online event to the Minamata COP-5 provided an interactive platform to seek stakeholders’ input on relationships of the panel with relevant key stakeholders, particularly on how to build linkages from science to support action. It aimed to elicit views from Member States, the secretariats of the Minamata Convention, World Health Organization, and other key stakeholders to learn from their experience within and beyond the mercury and health communities. This online event is also part of the Road to OEWG 2 Series, co-organized by the Secretariat of the OEWG and the Geneva Environment Network, and launched the week of Online Events in preparation of COP-5.

About this Event

Chemicals, including mercury, are present in daily life. However, science has shown that inadequate and poor management of chemicals and waste has led to increasing pollution of land, water, and air, and harmful effects on human health. A science-policy panel on chemicals, waste, and pollution prevention can help provide linkages between science and the actions needed to tackle mounting pollution issues. It is expected that this science-policy panel will join existing science-policy panels such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in addressing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution.

This online event of the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (Minamata COP-5), launching the week of Online Events in preparation of COP-5, was an opportunity to further provide an interactive platform to seek stakeholders’ input on relationships of the new science-policy panel with relevant key stakeholders, particularly on the need to build linkages from science to support action.

This event’s aim was to elicit views from Member States, the secretariat of the Minamata Convention, the World Health Organization, and other stakeholders to learn from their experience in bridging science to action, within and beyond the mercury and health communities.

Outcomes of the exchanges in this online event will inform the second meeting of the OEWG in December 2023.


In March 2022, the United Nations Environment Assembly at its resumed fifth session (UNEA-5.2) countries agreed to establish an independent, intergovernmental science-policy panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution. An ad hoc open-ended working group (OEWG) process has been initiated to prepare proposals for the panel.

As set out in the resolution 5/8, the panel will support countries to take action on chemicals, waste and pollution, including to implement various international instruments such as multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), by providing policy-relevant scientific advice. The Panel will also further support relevant MEAs, other international instruments and intergovernmental bodies, and other relevant stakeholders in their work.

The OEWG concluded its first session on 30 January to 3 February 2023 in Bangkok, Thailand, with a particular focus on the scope and functions of the panel and intersessional work. One key document to be prepared is on relationships of the panel with relevant key stakeholders, especially the chemicals and waste MEAs.

Road to OEWG 2 Series

In preparation for the second session, the Road to OEWG 2 | Science-Policy Panel to Contribute Further to the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste and to Prevent Pollution webinar and event series, co-organized by the OEWG Secretariat and Geneva Environment Network aims to build bridges between and among stakeholders, and promote collaboration and knowledge sharing in preparation for OEWG 2 in December 2023.

Previous webinars and events in the series have focused on the process for establishing a science-policy panel, its scope and possible structure (24 January 2023); lessons learned the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), International Resource Panel (IRP), Montreal Protocol, and World Health Organization (WHO) (5 October 2022); the scope of the panel (25 July 2022), operating principles of existing science-policy interfaces mentioned above, (26 April 2023); building bridges between and among stakeholders and raising awareness about the OEWG process (2 May 2023 as a side event to the 2023 BRS COPs); and how members of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) can contribute their scientific expertise throughout the process (1 May 2023, during the European Special Session of SETAC Annual Meeting).

Minamata COP-5 Online Events

This session is part of the Online Events of the Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (Minamata COP-5), taking place in Geneva from 30 October to 3 November 2023. Minamata COP-5 Online Events take place during the week of 9 to 13 October 2023.   → Find more information on the official website.


By order of intervention. 


Chair, OEWG on a Science-Policy Panel on Chemicals, Waste and Prevention of Pollution | Deputy Permanent Representative to UN Environment Programme, Netherlands


Executive Secretary, Minamata Convention on Mercury


Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, World Health Organization

Bernardo ROCA-REY

Minister-Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Peru to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva | Responsible for Health & Environment

Marianne BAILEY

Senior Coordination Officer, Minamata Convention Secretariat

Lesley J ONYON

Head, Chemical Safety and Health Unit, World Health Organization

Noriyuki SUZUKI

National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), Japan


Senior Mercury Policy Officer, European Environmental Bureau


Programme Management Officer, Secretariat of the OEWG on a Science-Policy Panel on Chemicals, Waste and Prevention of Pollution, UNEP | Moderator


Opening Remarks

Monika STANKIEWICZ | Executive Secretary, Minamata Convention on Mercury

  • Celebrating on 10 October the 10th anniversary since its signing, the Minamata Convention on Mercury now has 147  parties to the Convention and has a trend of a new country joining every two months.
  • Last week, the Minamata Convention hosted and organized a meeting for indigenous people and the Amazon Forest in Brasilia to seek indigenous people’s perspectives and views on the use of mercury in artisanal gold mining, a major source of mercury pollution globally.
  • This work is being carried out upon the request of our fourth meeting of the conference of the parties (Minamata COP4): last year over 30 indigenous people from several Amazon countries participated and they conveyed a consistent story of devastation caused by mercury and artisanal gold mining taking place in indigenous people’s territories.
  • Gold mining is often illegal according to national legislation mining. This not only happens without consent from indigenous people’s communities it leads to contamination of fish, land and contributes to health problems including among children.
  • All indigenous peoples in the meeting from Suriname, French Guyana, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Guyana emphasized the urgency of the matter and this meeting has been instrumental in gathering insights and generating momentum towards more ambitious targets.
  • The threat of mercury is still very real, as exemplified by women the Minamata Convention met in Japan and who claimed to be afraid to get pregnant because of mercury’s effects.
  • The Science-Policy Panel on Chemicals, Waste and Pollution Prevention can support the work of the Minamata Convention in reaching the goal of protecting human health and the environment from chemicals and pollution.
  • As many pollutants travel long distances, everyone is affected everywhere but protecting those who are directly exposed and in vulnerable situations is especially an urgent matter.
  • Science-policy panels can mobilize capacity, build communication, and make a difference in public awareness and political will to push for greater change.
  • Countries that are currently engaged in negotiating SPP have a lot of information at hand, thanks to the experience of other major assessment processes.
  • The Minamata Convention looks forward to creating a new partnership with a new SPP. This partnership will be mutually beneficial and will reinforce the importance of chemicals and waste agenda including mercury.
  • The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a young convention implementation that has just started and there will be needs and gaps that such a future SPP could help fill.

Maria NEIRA | Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, World Health Organization

  • When chemicals have a visible impact on people’s health, it is clear that we must mobilize and accelerate action. Hopefully, health reasons will work as the argument that connects us all and force us to work in a more coordinated way to respond to challenges and ensure that what happened in Minamata will never happen again.
  • Today, there still are 30 million deaths that could be avoided if we worked on reducing people’s exposure to environmental changes and risks, some of them being chemicals. This could avoid as much as much as 25.5% of the global burden of disease.
  • This figure is not new but still can be the biggest motivation for all of us to keep working on chemicals, mercury, and other environmental health issues and reduce the annual death toll.
  • WHO  has been providing scientific evidence that informs all chemical conventions and has been mobilizing ministers of health and raised resolutions to the World Health Assembly to sensitize the Ministers of Health and push the to discuss with other members of the government actions that need to be taken to reduce exposure.
  • WHO has been providing technical assistance to countries on how to get engaged in the reduction of mercury and the success of the Minamta Convention is certainly rewarding and a success story on how to equip the Ministers of Health with the right arguments for negotiating.
  • WHO stands ready to continue providing the chemicals conventions with scientific evidence to anchor actions in the health argument and to advance.
  • We need more than just declarations, we need action and the capacity to work at the country level convincing all of the advantages that can arise from removing some of those chemicals and finding alternatives and that collaboration and coordination are the guiding power of these processes.
  • We hope at the end of the day health will be the winning argument and the health of the people will be better protected.

Panel Discussion

Bernardo ROCA-REY | Minister-Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Peru to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva | Responsible for Health & Environment

  • These are important times for the multilateral chemical agenda with several crucial processes happening in parallel.
  • Last week, the international community adopted the Global Framework on Chemicals Management and in a month ahead countries will discuss in Nairobi the first draft of the international instrument to address plastic pollution which is going to pave the way for an ambitious agreement in other fora.
  • The importance of the impacts of chemicals is also being raised outside the traditional environmental Circle awareness. The last World Health Assembly (WHA76)adopted a historical resolution on the impact of chemical waste and pollution on human health.
  • The process for establishing the SPP to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste, and to prevent pollution is very important because there is a recognition of the importance of science-based assessments to inform decision-making processes and of improving the availability of scientific information and assessments.
  • Peru believes that the establishment of the SPP can benefit from the valuable experience of the Minamata Convention, especially now that we are commemorating the 10th anniversary of its adoption.
  • Indeed, the scientific evidence-based information on the significant adverse neurological and other health effects of mercury led to the negotiation and adoption of the Minamata Convention with a full range of measures to control the supply and trade of mercury, as well as artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
  • Peru is particularly aware of the devastating effects of mercury in vulnerable communities or the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector for example, but as well as for informal and illegal mining Mercury is used as an essential element for gold extraction mainly carried out in the Amazonian and Andean areas.
  • The inadequate disposal and control of this waste has an irreversible impact on rivers lagoons and headwaters of the river basins which collaterally affects the health of indigenous people and local communities as well as the environment and biodiversity.
  • The use of mercury has diverse effects besides the evident serious negative consequences to the environment and health. It also has social and economic consequences: for example, people who use mercury are stigmatized and categorized as polluters laboring illegally at the economic level given that mercury yields a low percentage of gold recovery miners that are compensated at a lower level.
  • Aware of the multi-dimensional and serious problem of the use of mercury, Peru approved the multisectoral action plan for its implementation in June 2016.
  • In 2019, the national implementation plan for the agreement was approved and established the schedule of activities, the most important of which is the approval of the national action plan for artisanal and small-scale gold mining which is under elaboration.
  • The draft national action plan for artisanal and small-scale gold mining includes eight strategies aimed at improving sustainability; reducing mercury emissions and releases; reducing public health risk from mercury exposure; recovering degraded areas and contaminated sites; preventing mercury exposure among vulnerable populations in particular indigenous people and local communities, formalizing and improving the sustainability of artisanal and small scale mining, managing trade and preventing Mercury deviation and finally preventing illegal Mining and promoting sustainable alternative activities.
  • The future SPP can benefit from the Minamata Convention experience: for example on the need for tailored approaches, implementing policies aimed to address the sound management of chemicals and involving indigenous people and local communities that are directly linked with artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
  • The experience of the Minamata Convention is a clear example of how when the decision-makers are properly informed by science about the harmful effects of chemicals, proper policies will be implemented.
  • Given the increase of a wide range of chemicals around us, many with adverse effects to human health and the environment, the establishment of the SPP for the sound management of chemical waste and pollution is very important and urgent in appropriately addressing this crucial topic in the future.

Marianne BAILEY | Senior Coordination Officer, Minamata Convention Secretariat

  • The Minamata Convention’s intersessional process relies on sound science and data as well as strong stakeholder engagement. Without the engagement of the private sector, civil society, indigenous peoples, and women and youth groups, the results of our processes will just not be durable.
  • Since before the INC process we have benefited from the multi-stakeholder UNEP global mercury partnership, to which many stakeholders actively participate.
  • Our work on mercury-added products and industrial processes using mercury has been ongoing since COP-4 as eight product categories were added for phase-out and two new requirements on dental amalgam.
  • COP-5 will further consider three new proposals from the African region to amend Annexes.
  • The Convention already has evolved based on science and data. Some recent work includes work on indigenous people a very complex topic that will need an ongoing effort, and a very open, transparent and interactive flow of science data information.
  • Through that, we can have parties meet their reduction targets in their national action plans and ratchet down both the use and the emissions of mercury and the resulting exposures from this sector.
  • Our effectiveness evaluation has already begun, we have a framework that was adopted at COP-4 and an open-ended scientific group already meeting.
  • That group allows any party to have a voice in the in-depth deliberations by being on the roster. It includes stakeholders and the scientific community is very actively engaged.
  • At COP-5 our parties will consider finalizing the composition of the effectiveness evaluation group which is a separate group. It will also potentially adopt the indicators for its use and the effectiveness evaluation will be on its way and able to complete the work of the first effectiveness evaluation which will provide a great deal of insight for follow-up.
  • Integrating the work on mercury pollution with other issues, in particular biodiversity loss and climate change, is crucial to ensure that all the relevant stakeholders have the information and engagement that they need to scale up implementation.

Topics that COP-5 will discuss:

  •  Step out of the sort of mercury-only approach and better-advance implementation. A great example of this is the work done jointly with the BRS conventions on chemicals and climate change and on biodiversity and chemicals, but these really just scratch the surface and much more needs to be done and can be done to scale up an integrated solution. We did additional work on biodiversity for COP-5 at our party’s request.
  • Mercury emissions to the atmosphere and especially when you consider training and capacity building needs we see compelling reasons for an integrated approach as part of a bigger picture of what countries need to provide the socioeconomic the cost-benefit and the other information and analysis to support decision-making and we have done a lot of work on knowledge management.
  • We are presenting a new digital strategy to our COP, which is organized by digital ecosystem partnership governance. Innovation highlights the relevance of collaborating with key stakeholders like UNEA and we are proud of the work we have done so far on our online reporting dashboard that provides real-time data from our national reports and also a projects database and dashboard for both parts of our financial mechanism, but that is just to illustrate the importance of establishing Knowledge Management platforms very early on its really is impactful and gets the information where it needs to go.

Lesley J ONYON| Head, Chemical Safety and Health Unit, World Health Organization

  • The Ministers of Health and the health sector have been aware of the health impacts of mercury for many decades and were obvious allies in the formation of the Minamata convention.
  • Since 2014 WHO established a specific call to actions for the Minister of Health, who have been active partner in assisting governments with technical support, and providing technical guidance documents.
  • Early engagement will be critical also with the SPP as we have seen it also playing out very successfully SAICM and now we look forward to the Global framework for chemicals.
  • We have been actively supporting implementation in a specific number of areas phasing down or out the use of mercury and dental amalgam eliminating mercury in skin-lightening products, phasing out thermometers containing mercury and addressing the public health aspects of artisanal and small-scale mining.
  • When we look at all of those things we can perhaps identify some of the successful ingredients that will also be relevant for the SPP: the analytical and regulatory knowhows, the identification of alternatives, and monitoring capacities.
  • WHO can make reliable use of the information, when we look at the SPP we need to identify some things that are common across many of the areas of our work, and we want to have a driving force that these common elements will benefit health but also accelerate implementation of the relevant instrument.
  • Those issues that are common to several of these instruments and that are really critical to accelerating progress, it is important for the health assembly to be engaged from the beginning as they were with the Minamata Convention.
  • We now have the health assembly very much engaged and asking for options of who could further assist in the establishment of the new panel, we were asked to present a range of options that could be considered at the next Health assembly in May 2024.
  • This is somewhat of an accelerated time frame so that we are in synch with the negotiations that are taking place in the SPP but looking at the range of functions whether it be jointly hosting the panel or providing technical comment on health-related issues.
  • We are currently in the preparation of that advice for the health assembly in May and hope that they will come together at a good timely juncture for those who are charged with making decisions about the SPP to understand the best configuration for who to take and the best way of engaging the Ministers of Health further.
  • We are very much committed to working in parallel with the developments and building on the experience that we have had at the Minamata convention and other chemical conventions.

Noriyuki SUZUKI | National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), Japan

  •  The National Institute for Environmental Studies conducted a research project on the socio-economic scenarios on human exposure to mercury.
  • The basic study design consists of several parts. First, it establishes a baseline on emissions and material flows of mercuries. Then it analyzes the global mercury fate and exposure based on scientific tools, and the third part assesses the impact of the Minamata Convention and counter measures.
  • Through our studies, we are going to show the differences between the baseline Minamata scenario and the core impact on climate change information.

  • The work has been conducted to establish the socio-economic scenarios by applying integrating models and material flow models to monitor. have changing mercury emissions in terms of space and time. This permits estimates of global mercury levels in the oceans.
  • Mercury level in the ocean is converted toe geographical distribution of mercury exposure to humans from ocean biota and this information is used to assess health and environmental impact and socio-economic outcomes.
  • During our work, we experienced that our scientific work reflects a variety of national and international social-economic activities. In the study of scenario emissions and controls, we refer to  UNEP, IPCC and OECD and other information sources and activities organizations.
  • In the study of global fate exposure impact we rely on atmospheric, oceanic and bio-monitoring health sciences.
  • We are aware that any single existing national or organizational activity may not cover all necessary sciences within the boundaries of their original mandates. In the case of mercury, the Minamata convention covers many aspects of mercury although not all of them. This is not the case for many other chemicals and waste issues like industrial chemicals like PFAs and many plastic additives. We have a very substantial management scheme for many industrial chemicals but they are not always in cooperation. We believe that holistic scientific views should be an effective way to show sound, natural and objective understandings on how the whole structures work together.
  • Holistic scientific views are needed for many chemicals and to establish better structures for chemicals management.
  • We expect that SPP for chemicals, waste and pollution prevention would play such a role among others.

Rina GUADAGNINI | Senior Mercury Policy Officer, European Environmental Bureau

  • The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) is an international coalition creted in 2005 that gathers more than 110 public interest environmental and health organizations spread over 55 countries all over the world.
  • The inclusion of Civil Society organizations in the science policy panel could help identify a wider range of data to include, for instance, data collected from citizen science about local use or presence and exposure to mercury especially where dangerous activities like artisanal small-scale gold mining are performed or where industrial mercury emissions are particularly high.
  • NGOs working on the ground could also report exposure Pathways that experts may not know about or consider such as culturally specific uses of products or traditional foods.
  • Traditional working techniques and traditional scientific knowledge of indigenous people are information that is also not necessarily included in science.
  • The NGOs perspective and experience supporting action with robust scientific evidence is absolutely needed. Science is key but it is usually easier to trigger policy actions where there is evidence of local issues to solve.
  • It is well known that mercury is a hazardous substance that is transboundary, it is a global pollutant that causes a lot of health issues. This general information should be translated into local evidence and it should be brought to policymakers as a local urgency. NGOs can often provide this evidence.
  • The inclusion of representatives of civil society into the science policy panel will be an added value as it will ensure more transparency about scientific information and analysis used to support policy decisions. It will ensure a wide range of views when making policy judgments about how to use science: for example using a high level of Public Health protection when setting standards to ensure that all the most vulnerable populations, meaning children, women, elderly, and indigenous population.
  • The SPP can support our work on mercury in making science easily available. The panel can work on technical reviews or peer-to-peer reviews or produce a piece of science free of use so for CSO, providing them with a valid tool to inform; and train health professionals on the ground to recognize the effects of mercury intoxication.
  • Not all Mercury intoxication ends up being the Minamata disease but often talking with a health professional on the ground is useful to recognize these symptoms and the danger related to skin-lightening products containing mercury for instance. Making science more accessible and understandable through infographics and short reports could help in this way.
  • We could involve medical associations; family doctors; nurses; poisoning centers and local health facilities in raising awareness among the population and also asking them to keep records about incidents related to exposure. This could make a difference in the form of giving science and getting back science from the science-policy panel.
  • Capacity building on the ground could be for example linked with the global monitoring plan and other conventions.
  • NGOs can bring under the spotlight problems in advance, earlier than big organisms and the example that we want to bring quickly is skin-lightening products.
  • ZMWK – with the help of partners – has been collecting and testing samples of creams, lotions and soaps intended to lighten skins. We have been discovering that a lot of illegal products can be easily found online.
  • We created a database accessible online with the results of past analyses. It has been already used by some governments, we have been sharing it because this skin-lightening work has involved not only CSOs but we have been in collaboration also with local governments.
  • This is an example of how CSOs’ action can bring their contribution to a science panel and can get back some silence to be used on the ground.

Closing Remarks

Gudi ALKEMADE | Chair, SPP OEWG | Deputy Permanent Representative to UN Environment Programme, Netherlands

  • If we want people to deal with the triple planetary crisis of pollution climate change, and biodiversity loss determined, coordinated and concrete action is needed.
  • For us to transition to resilient sustainable pathways, action can only be effective if this is rooted in sound science.
  • As we embark into the second session of the open-ended working group that has been tasked or mandated by UNEA resolution 5/8, it becomes clear that the benefits of an SPP are multiple.
  • It is important to provide effective scientific and policy-relevant knowledge and information to address the multiple challenges related to health related to climate biodiversity but also food security energy and many others.
  • This webinar series can help member states think about how to develop the panel and how to make it relevant, the kind of relationships that we need to develop between multilateral environmental agreements, how can the right links be made with the scientific, environment, and health communities and how can local indigenous knowledge play a role.





Presentations made during the event