ACP MEAs newsletter A retrospect of 2015

Rallying around the Minamata Convention

Mercury – as a highly toxic heavy metal – is particularly dangerous due to its ability to bioaccumulate (accumulate in living organisms), biomagnify (increase in concentration as it goes up the food chain), persistence and mobility to travel widely. Moreover, its impact on human health – including permanent disruptions in the nervous system (especially children and pregnant women) – has mobilized support around its sound management and control. It is believed that 30 percent of current emissions to the atmosphere are anthropogenic (approximately 2000 tons).

Thus, the Minamata Convention – as a global legally binding instrument – is a crucial mechanism to protect the human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury throughout its lifecycle. It contains, in support of this objective, provisions that relate to the entire life cycle of mercury, including controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted. The treaty also addresses the direct mining of mercury, its export and import, its safe storage and its disposal once as waste. It would also regulate exports of the chemical and seek to ban by 2020 the manufacture of mercury-added products such as thermometers and batteries as well as their import and export.

The Convention, which was introduced in 2013, has been signed by 128 governments but will enter into force after 50 nations have ratified it. Currently, 25 countries have ratified the treaty, which are Bolivia, Chad, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea, Guyana, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Samoa, Senegal, Seychelles, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uruguay and Zambia.

At the recent Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Mercury (INC7) held in March 2016, over 450 participants representing governments, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations came together to prepare for the entry into force of the Convention. There were a number of successful outcomes, in particular, the adoption of guidance materials on a provisional basis on a number of technical issues, such as on best available techniques and best environmental practices for emissions of mercury, on the identification of stocks and sources of mercury supply as well as on completing the forms required under Article 3, which addresses mercury supply sources and trade. Agreement was also reached on the use of guidance on the development of national action plans on artisanal and small-scale gold mining by countries in developing their national action plans.

Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining and the Use of Mercury

Mobilizing support for the ratification of this Convention is particularly crucial for phasing out the detrimental use of mercury in the artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM), which is the largest anthropogenic source of mercury pollution (an estimated 37 percent) and the largest source of air and water pollution.

Article 7 of the Minamata Convention addresses this issue by requiring each Party where mercury is used in ASGM to take steps to reduce and, where feasible, eliminate the use of mercury. Because the ASGM sector is closely tied to complex economic development and poverty issues, the Convention allows flexible, country-specific approaches through the development of an ASGM National Action Plan (NAP). This is a significant step towards acknowledging not only the common but differentiated responsibilities principle in the realm of tackling mercury but fundamentally, in allowing countries build their national strategies according to national contexts.

The sector involves an estimated 15 million people globally (of which 3 million are women and children) across 70 countries. Many of these are countries are primarily Sub-Saharan Africa, South America and East and Southeast Asia. In a number of African countries, this issue is compounded by the challenges of regulating the use of mercury as AGSM exists as a largely informal sector.

ACP MEAs involvement in 2015

Falling under Component 2 of the project which focuses on the implementation of specific MEAs through the MEA Secretariats and project partners, a number of activities have taken place to rally support around the ratification of the Minamata Convention. With the overall objective of contributing towards better protection of the environment and public health in ACP countries, the project organized a regional workshop to support African countries to ratify and implement the Minamata Convention in August 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya. The workshop provided a platform for knowledge and information exchange on environmentally sound practices and techniques that prevent mercury’s adverse impact on health and the environment. Moreover, a situational analysis on mercury management and implementation of the Minamata Convention was conducted in Uganda and Ghana which include the socio-economic implications and review of national regulatory frameworks.

During Phase 2 of the project, there has been an increased membership of the African countries – 10 out of the 25 countries to have ratified are African – with the most recent ratification coming from Senegal. Meanwhile, the Caribbean Hub has also been involved in a number of activities in support of the Convention, including organizing a regional workshop to promote the ratification of the Convention and the development and dissemination of a factsheet on the Convention. Additionally, the Hub was involved in presenting a paper – in liaison with UNEP-Regional Office for Latin America and Caribbean (ROLAC) – on the Convention to the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), which provided a positive decision in support of such activities. This is a key milestone as COTED is a key entity involved in the promotion of trade and economic development of the CARICOM.

The following section will provide brief updates and highlights on the activities in 2014, which were carried out by the regional hubs and partners in pursuit of the objectives of the ACP MEA 2 project.

Africa Hub

A workshop on e-waste was jointly organized in Lagos, Nigeria in October 2015 by the Africa Hub, the Basel Convention Coordinating Center (BCCC), and the Secretariat of Basel/Rotterdam/Stockholm. It resulted in the identification of common goals and activities that the Africa Hub would undertake with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), BCCR Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. Furthermore, it resulted in the formulation of concrete recommendations on e-waste management in Africa.

Furthermore, presentations on the ACP MEAs project were made during the Pan African Parliament in Johannesburg in August 2015, as well as during GIZ and Basel Convention Secretariat workshops for African experts on ABS in Addis Ababa in November 2015.

The Pan African Parliament in session.

A road map and inception report on the East African Community (EAC) framework on biosafety was also compiled with the aim of leading work to better control genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and living genetically modified organisms (LGMOs) while providing safe health conditions.

Caribbean Hub

The CARICOM Secretariat organized a national MEAs workshop for Customs and Border Control officers in Georgetown, Guyana in March 2015. Furthermore, in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, the CARICOM Secretariat delivered a regional workshop on Sustainable Financing and Resource Mobilization for Biodiversity, in St. John’s, in Antigua and Barbuda in May 2015.

In November 2015, in cooperation with the ABS Capacity Development Initiative, the Caribbean Hub organized a regional workshop in Paramaribo, Suriname, on the negotiation of mutually agreed terms and contracts for access and benefit-sharing under the Nagoya Protocol. Additionally, the Caribbean Hub partnered with the Basel Convention Regional Centre for the Caribbean on several awareness-raising activities related to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, including the preparation and dissemination of a fact sheet on the Minamata Convention.

Nagoya Protocol capacity-building workshop in November 2015 held in Paramaribo, Suriname
Participants from the national MEAs workshop for Customs and Border Control officers in Georgetown, Guyana in March 2015
At the regional workshop on Sustainable Financing and Resource Mobilization for Biodiversity, in St. John’s, in Antigua and Barbuda in May 2015

Pacific Hub

The Pacific Hub was successful in delivering National Environment Management Strategies (NEMS) training and formulation for Fiji, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, and Vanuatu. The strategies set the direction for these countries to address environment issues in line with the achievement of MEA commitments and the National Sustainable Development Strategic goals.

From September 28-30, the Pacific Hub provided support and capacity building efforts in a workshop for access and benefit sharing (ABS) framework under the Nagoya protocol in partnership with GIZ, USP, and IUCN in Fiji. Moreover, State of Environment Reporting and report formulation for Marshall Islands and capacity building efforts were extended to the Cook Islands. The Pacific Hub also delivered on Environmental Impact Assessment capacity building and awareness activities as well as the provision of technical support and information on EIA processes with Secretariat of the Pacific Community on Deep Sea Mining and the integration of Environmental and Social Safeguards in partnership with ADB/World Bank. The Hub continued its work on the National Minimum Development Indicators database by enhancing the focus on the biodiversity and protected areas component.

http://www.spc.int/nmdi/

Implementation of Specific MEAs

Within Component 2 of the Project – which specifically focuses on the implementation of MEAs in the biodiversity and chemicals & waste cluster – a number of workshops were organized for capacity building and legal support. African countries were provided support in strengthening their national Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) frameworks for the ratification, entry into force and implementation of the Nagoya Protocol ABS. Two capacity building workshops were organized to review the legal and regulatory frameworks, including administrative procedures in collaboration with the Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat.

A workshop was organized in Nairobi, Kenya in August, 2015 and gathered 40 participants on the theme ‘The Rotterdam Convention: legislative and regulatory measures for sound industrial chemicals management in the east African sub-region.’ Moreover, during the same month a regional workshop was held to ‘Support African countries to ratify and implement the Minamata Convention’ in Nairobi, Kenya. The workshop provided a platform for information exchange on environmentally sound practices and techniques that prevent mercury impacts on health and the environment. A report on the situational analysis on mercury management and implementation of the Minamata Convention on mercury in Uganda and Ghana was also produced.

Additionally, in order to raise the awareness among African journalists on the environmental challenges facing the continent, a capacity building workshop was organised by one of the NGO partners - the Environmental Compliance Institute (ECI) in collaboration with Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA). The workshop took place in Nairobi, Kenya from 15 to 16th October 2015 and brought together 40 journalists from the four African sub-regions (Eastern, Northern, Southern and Western). The event culminated in the publication of the ‘Handbook for African Journalists on Multilateral Environmental Agreements’ that was widely distributed. Some of the facilitators and resource persons included established environmental journalists, environmental lawyers, representatives from civil society, government implementing agencies and institutions of higher learning. Through the workshop, the participants engaged in understanding the existing and emerging response mechanisms under global and regional MEAs, the national implementation mechanisms, as well as best practices on effective reporting strategies for the continent's priority environmental issues.

Capacity Building Workshop for African Journalists on MEAs, 15-16 October, 2015, Nairobi, Kenya
Ben Opaa from the National Land Commission, NLC, making a presentation on the Capacity Building Workshop for African Journalists on Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs)

Highlights of FAO's involvement in 2015

Efficiently regulated and managed pesticide registration schemes are building blocks to the implementation of the chemical Conventions. Most of developing countries, however, lack to a greater or lesser extent fully operational systems for pesticide registration. It is in this context, that the MEAs II project focuses on increasing the effectiveness of the pesticide registration in ACP countries.

FAO is developing a web-based Registration Toolkit to assist pesticide registrars in the evaluation and authorization of pesticides. The toolkit is being developed through a series of technical workshops held since 2014 with international experts. In 2015, the fifth workshop on pesticide efficacy assessment took place in Rome from 17-19 March, 2015.

In Africa, efforts towards the goal of harmonizing pesticide regulation moved forward through the organization of a Consultation for Regional Harmonization of Pesticide Regulation in the East African Community held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in June 2015. The aim was to review existing regulatory processes and related activities on pesticides in the EAC countries and provide recommendations for a practical and sustainable modality to assist the countries to harmonize pesticide registration; and to initiate the preparation of guidelines on harmonization of pesticide legislation and registration requirements. Three working groups of experts on pesticide residues, efficacy trials and data requirement were proposed to develop regional guidelines to guide the EAC towards harmonisation.n July of 2015 rgional workshop for the Southern African Pesticide Regulators’ Forum (SAPReF) was held in Harare, Zimbabwe to elaborate a strategic action plan for SAPReF that will guide short and long term activities to build capacity on sound pesticide management. As part of the same events, Designated National Authorities were trained on better enforcement of Rotterdam Convention and risk reduction of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs). One SADC country, Mozambique, has already taken the important regulatory decisions to ban all HHP products.

An analysis of existing most recent NBSAPs was undertaken to identify gaps in terms of issues and country priorities. Kenya was identified as focus country where synergies between biodiversity and chemicals management will be elaborated and introduced into the new NBSAP.

In the Caribbean, a Regional Technical Working Group on Pesticide Evaluation for Registration, involving pesticide registrars and observers from the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA), and other regional institutions as well as CARICOM Secretariat, was established, with the aim of evaluating applications for the registration of pesticides products.

In the Pacific, the proposal to harmonize pesticide legislation and registration for the Pacific Island countries was firstly presented at the 4th Regional Meeting of Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services (HOAFS) in 2010 and was since discussed in 3 large regional consultations. In May 2015, the representatives of twelve countries endorsed a proposal outlining the scope, objective, institutional arrangements and operational mechanisms of a regional scheme and recommended its inclusion in the agenda of the next HOAFs meeting. The overall aim of the scheme is to reduce pesticide risks and ensure their efficacy and quality. A Technical and Legal Working Group on Harmonisation of Pesticide Registration has been established with the endorsement of the participating countries.

Finally, sites that are heavily contaminated with pesticides have been investigated in Kenya, Botswana and Eritrea and risk mitigations measures have been proposed to the concerned authorities.

To find out more on the project, please visit:

The ACP MEAs is a joint EU-UNEP partnership project. This Newsletter has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views, policies or official opinion of the European Commission, UNEP or contributory organizations. For more information on ACP MEAs please contact: Mr. Mamadou Kane (Mamadou.Kane@unep.org).

Created By
Anjana Varma
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Photos are courtesy of National Geographic, Google images. Event photos provided by CARICOM, AUC, SPREP, FAO, UNEP

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