L'oeil de la Genève Internationale
September 2017

Government representatives will gather in Geneva, from 24 to 29 September 2017, for the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury. Organized by United Nations Environment Programme, the Conference will be hosted by the Swiss Government at the International Conference Centre in Geneva (CICG).

In parallel to the Conference, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Swiss Government are also organizing a "Hg Week" with a series of events to raise the awareness, in particular of the Geneva public, about the threat posed by this highly toxic chemical that endangers the environment and health of millions of people around the world, including the most vulnerable: foetuses, new-born babies and children.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury, which will enter into force on 16 August 2017, is an international treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury, a global and ubiquitous metal that, while naturally occurring, has broad uses in everyday objects and is released to the atmosphere, soil and water from a variety of sources.

Some of the major highlights of the Minamata Convention include a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, the phase out and phase down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and the regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining. The Convention also addresses interim storage of mercury and its disposal once it becomes waste, sites contaminated by mercury as well as health issues. For further information about the Conference and the Minamata Convention, please follow the link.

In this photograph by the renowned photojournalist William Eugene Smith (1918-1978), a mother is holding her 12 year old child who is suffering from the Minamata disease, a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. Smith spent four years in Minamata documenting the consequence of mercury pollution. He is the author of many books, notably: W. Eugene Smith Master of the Photographic Essay.