Conference of Plenipotentiary on the Minamata Convention on Mercury

Bern, 10.10.2013 - Statement by Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard, 10 October 2013, Kumamoto, Japan

Mr. President


Ladies and Gentlemen

First I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to the government and the people of Japan for their hospitality. I would also like to extend my thanks to UNEP for facilitating in an excellent manner the negotiation process of the Minamata convention on mercury. And my thanks and appreciation go to Fernando Lugris, who marvelously chaired the negotiation process. Finally I would like to thank all of you for your support and commitment.

It's an important day, an historical day, also for the multilateralism. For Switzerland the adoption of a global instrument regulating mercury has been one of the key priorities for a long time. Therefore I am extremely proud that we concluded the first part of our work on this new treaty this January in Geneva and that we were able to sign it here in Kumamoto.

During my journey to Japan I was thinking of the terrible impacts that this toxic heavy metal has caused to human health and the environment in Minamata.

I am deeply struck and affected by seeing how pollution can have such serious and irreversible consequences over generations of families. Adopting this convention will help us to make sure that this will never happen again anywhere in the word.

Our common commitment to mercury has to be seen as one further step towards a comprehensive, coordinated and coherent chemicals and waste regime.

The ratification, entry into force and rapid implementation of the treaty are the immediate challenges ahead of us. Strong commitment at all levels is needed to address them as soon as possible.

Switzerland remains engaged in this process. In January in Geneva, I have announced that Switzerland is ready to support the ratification and early implementation process with a first contribution of 1 Million Swiss Francs. I am happy to inform you that Switzerland will increase this support to a total of 7.5 million Swiss Franc which is the equivilant of 8,3 Mio US$. 1.5 Mio Swiss Francs will support ratification and early implementation of the convention, and 6 Million Swiss Francs will support concrete projects with regard to Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining.

Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining is not only the major global mercury emission source, but it has also strong social and economic dimensions. The Swiss Development Cooperation Agency will support the introduction of environmental, social and legal standards and technology in this sector. And, the State Secretary for Economic Affairs will support the "Better Gold Initiative" to promote the responsible gold production from artisanal and small-scale mining by establishing standards for better gold production.

Another important step is the integration of the new instrument in the existing chemicals and waste cluster to allow to fully use its rich expertise and experience and thus facilitate, speed up and strengthen the quality of the interim process. Therefore I am pleased that here in Kumamoto we were able to agree on close coordination and cooperation between the Interim Secretariat with the Secretariats of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. And, I am confident that at COP 1, we will be able to fully integrate the mercury convention into the Basel-Rotterdam-Stockholm Structure. This will be the more effective way.

However, much remains to be done for the sound management of chemicals and waste. Other substances such as lead and cadmium, endocrine disruptors, and e-waste also continue to pose challenges and require enhanced international cooperation. We are all aware that no country can solve the challenges of chemical and waste management alone; hazardous substances do not stop at borders, but are transported around the globe in the air, in water, in products and in food.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have prepared the ground. But we still have to work seriously until we can earn the fruits of our effort.  Today we can celebrate.

I look forward to welcoming all of you very soon in Switzerland at COP 1.

Thank you.

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