What is the Minamata Convention on Mercury?
Last Updated: Jun 01, 2018     Views: 1478

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international treaty intended to protect people and the environment from the harm caused by exposure to mercury. It is named after a city in Japan where inhabitants were poisoned by the release of mercury in wastewater from a chemical factory in the mid-20th century.

The negotiations process was first initiated with decisions made by the Governing Council of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

History of the Minimata Convention:

  • In 2001, the Executive Director of UNEP was invited by its Governing Council to undertake a global assessment of mercury and its compounds. This assessment presented enough significant pieces of evidence of global adverse impacts to warrant international action.
  • In February 2003 (decision 22/4 V), a mercury programme was first established to raise issues posed by mercury and was further strengthened by governments in 2005 (decision  23/9 IV), and 2007 (decision 24/3 IV). With the latter decision, the Governing Council decided to review and assess voluntary measures as well as new or existing international legal instruments in order to improve the fight against mercury impacts.
  • In February 2009, the Governing Council agreed on the preparation of a global legally binding instrument.
  • In June 2010, an intergovernmental negotiating committee was established to prepare that instrument and complete the negotiations prior to the 27th session of the Governing Council in 2013.
  • In January 2013, at its 5th session in Geneva, the committee agreed on the final draft text of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The Convention was adopted and opened for signature at a Diplomatic Conference (Conference of Plenipotentiaries), held in Kumamoto, Japan, from 10 to 11 October 2013. 

In accordance with Article 31, the Convention entered into force on August 16th, 2017, ninety days after the date of deposit of the fiftieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, which happened on May 18th, 2017.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the Depositary of the agreement. Therefore, the text and status of the agreement. including the signatories and parties to the treaty, can be found on the UN Treaty Information website, in the MTDSG Status of Treaties Database.


Disclaimer: answers are prepared by library staff using resources available at the time of writing. This site may include links and references to third-party databases, websites, books and articles, this does not imply endorsement by the United Nations.


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