Cropper on Negotiating a Legally Binding Agreement on Mercury
Statement by UNEP Deputy Executive Director at the Opening of the First Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to Prepare a Global Legally Binding Instrument on Mercury
Stockholm, 7 June 2010- Thank you, Mr. Bakken. Honorable Minister, Dear Distinguished delegates, colleagues
On behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, I welcome you to the first session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to prepare a global legally binding instrument on mercury. I also extend to you the best wishes of Mr. Achim Steiner, our Executive Director, for the work of this Committee. He is disappointed that he is not able to be here with us this week, but he is attending the meeting on the International Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services in Busan, Kora. He sends his encouragement and support for the challenging work ahead.
This Committee is starting its work at an appropriate venue. And I thank the Government of Sweden and the Nordic Council of Ministers for hosting us here. Stockholm was also the venue for the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, from 5 to 16 June 1972. 38 years ago, your Governments adopted a groundbreaking declaration voicing a common outlook and common principles to inspire and guide the peoples of the world in the conservation and enhancement of the human environment. That conference gave birth to the United Nations Environment Programme.
Many years and many meetings have passed since then and the global community has made much progress in addressing the global challenges posed by the use of hazardous chemicals in our society. International legal regimes have been developed to limit trade in unwanted chemicals and deal with persistent organic pollutants and hazardous wastes, and an overarching strategic approach to international chemicals management has been developed. But there is still a way to go before society achieves the objective it set itself in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, that objective being: "sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that, by 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment." The historic decision by the UNEP Governing Council last year (GC 25/5, 2009) to initiate international negotiations on global measures to reduce the risks to health and the environment from mercury pollution is another important step towards achieving that 2020, goal and sets the stage for lifting a major health threat that affects the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the globe.