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The present document, which explains the ongoing work of existing partnerships, responds to the call of the United Nations Environment Programme Governing Council in its decision 24/3, paragraph 27 (a), for an overarching framework for strengthening the Global Mercury Programme. It has been developed under the auspices of the Executive Director in consultation with Governments and other stakeholders. The document was forwarded to the Governing Council at its twenty-fifth session where progress made by the Partnership was welcomed and the continued involvement of UNEP in the Partnership was endorsed. It has been subsequently revised and updated to reflect latest developments.


UNEP Governing Council Decision 23/9 called for mercury partnerships between governments and other stakeholders as one approach to reducing risks to human health and the environment from the release of mercury and its compounds to the environment. This call is consistent with United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/215 “Towards Global Partnerships” that defines partnerships as “...voluntary and collaborative relationships between various parties, both public and non-public, in which all participants agree to work together to achieve a common purpose or undertake a specific task and, as mutually agreed, to share risks and responsibilities, resources and benefits” (Paragraph 2). In response to UNEP Governing Council Decision 23/9, five partnership areas were identified in 2005: mercury release from coal combustion, artisanal and small-scale gold mining, mercury cell chlor alkali production, mercury in products, and mercury air transport and fate research.

In Decision 24/3 part IV, UNEP Governing Council recognized “that current efforts to reduce risks from mercury are not sufficient to address the global challenges posed by mercury” and concluded, therefore, “that further long-term international action is required to reduce risks to human health and the environment and that, for this reason, the options of enhanced voluntary measures and new or existing international legal instruments will be reviewed and assessed in order to make progress in addressing this issue.”

In Paragraph 27 of UNEP Governing Council Decision 24/3 part IV, UNEP was tasked with working in consultation with Governments and stakeholders in strengthening the UNEP mercury programme partnerships by:

a)  “… Developing an overarching framework for the United Nations Environment Programme Global Mercury Partnership through, among other means, organizing a meeting of partners and other stakeholders, including:

b)  “Expanding the number and scope of partnerships to include new, growing or related sectors such as vinyl chloride monomer production, non-ferrous metals mining and cement production and waste combustion;

c)  Enhancing the artisanal and small-scale gold mining partnership through, among other things, increased cooperation with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, exploration of innovative market-based approaches and dissemination of alternative capture and recycling technologies;

d)  Endeavouring to secure adequate funds for the Global Mercury Partnership efforts.”

Furthermore, the UNEP Mercury Programme is guided by the seven priorities set out in Paragraph 19 of the UNEP Governing Council Decision 24/3 part IV:

a)  “To reduce atmospheric mercury emissions from human sources;

b)  To find environmentally sound solutions for the management of waste containing mercury and mercury compounds;

c)  To reduce global mercury demand related to use in products and production processes;

d)  To reduce the global mercury supply, including considering curbing primary mining and taking into account a hierarchy of sources;

e)  To find environmentally sound storage solutions for mercury;

f)  To address, considering the results of the analysis referred to in paragraph 24 (d) below*, the remediation of existing contaminated sites affecting public and environmental health;

*  UNEP Governing Council Decision 24/3 Part IV Paragraph 24.d:
Requests the Executive Director to prepare a report, drawing on, among other things, ongoing work in other forums addressing: … Site-based contamination ‘(d) An analysis of information on the extent of contaminated sites, the risks to public and environmental health of mercury compound releases from such sites, environmentally sound mitigation options and associated costs and the contribution of contaminated sites to global releases.’

g)  To increase knowledge on areas such as inventories, human and environmental exposure, environmental monitoring and socio-economic impacts.”

In Decision 25/5 part III, UNEP Governing Council, amongst others commended “the Executive Director and members of the United Nations Environment Programme Global Mercury Partnership for their progress in developing and implementing the Partnership as a vehicle for immediate action on mercury”; welcomed “the progress made by the Partnership in creating an overarching framework for immediate action in the priority areas identified in decision 24/3, section IV” and endorsed “the continued involvement of the United Nations Environment Programme in the Partnership”.

In Decision 26/3 part II, UNEP Governing Council acknowledged “the progress made by the United Nations Environment Programme mercury programme, including under the Global Mercury Partnership and other initiatives”; urged “Governments and other stakeholders to continue to support and contribute to the Global Mercury Partnership” and “all partners to continue their efforts to take immediate steps to reduce risks from mercury exposure”. It further requested “the Executive Director, subject to the availability of resources, to undertake specific actions in the context of the Global Mercury Partnership to strengthen the capacities of developing countries and countries with economies in transition to initiate or further develop their national inventories of mercury”.

In Decision 27/12 part III, UNEP Governing Council welcomed “the efforts by the secretariat of the United Nations Environment Programme and its partners to take immediate action on mercury through the Global Mercury Partnership”, urged “all partners to continue their efforts” and “Governments and other stakeholders to continue to support, participate in, and contribute to the Global Mercury Partnership”. It further requested “the Executive Director to continue to provide the necessary support to the Global Mercury Partnership”.

In Decision 25/5 part III, UNEP Governing Council had also requested “the Executive Director to convene an intergovernmental negotiating committee with the mandate to prepare a global legally binding instrument on mercury”. This mandate was reaffirmed by the Governing Council through its decision 26/3. The negotiations process led to the adoption of the Minamata Convention on Mercury on 10 October 2013 at the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Kumamoto, Japan. The Minamata Convention entered into force on 16 August 2017. The objective of the Convention is to protect the human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.

The Global Mercury Partnership has played an important role in helping build momentum for a global legally-binding instrument on mercury, and contributed knowledge to negotiators, other stakeholders and the public during the negotiations process through the entry into force of the Convention. It worked closely with stakeholders to assist in the timely ratification and implementation of the Convention. The Partnership currently focuses its work on supporting timely and effective implementation of the Minamata Convention, on providing state of the art knowledge and science on mercury and on delivering outreach and awareness raising towards global action on mercury.

The Overarching Framework Document of the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership was developed in 2008 in consultation with governments and other stakeholders and has been subsequently revised and updated to reflect latest developments. It should be viewed as a dynamic document that will be reviewed and updated in the light of experience with its application.

1.  UNEP Global Mercury Partnership Goal

The overall goal of the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership is to protect human health and the global environment from the release of mercury and its compounds by minimizing and, where feasible, ultimately eliminating global, anthropogenic mercury releases to air, water and land.

The partnership areas should support the overall goal of the Partnership through contributing to the following objectives, consistent with the priorities set out in paragraph 19 of Governing Council Decision 24/3:

To achieve these objectives the partnership areas should also:

In undertaking its work, the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership and its partnership areas should focus on:

2.  organizational structure

The organizational structure facilitates meeting the overall goal of the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership and the objectives of the partnership areas in a transparent, inclusive, flexible and effective way. 

The organizational structure set out in Figure 1 below aims to provide broad oversight, coherence, direction and facilitation to assist partners in coordinating objectives and to serve as a body for deliberation on cross-cutting issues. It is designed to be accountable and sustainable in nature and allow for effective monitoring and review. 

*  As of June 2020, eight partnership areas were established.

3.  Operational Guidelines

The Operational Guidelines set out in Annex 1 accommodate the wide scope of issues under the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership, maintaining flexibility in undertaking the partnership area activities in a transparent, accountable and inclusive way. The Operational Guidelines are to be applied to all aspects of the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership, including the Partnership Advisory Group and the partnership areas.

4.  Business plans

Business plans were called for under UNEP Governing Council Decision 24/3.

The structure for the plans is outlined in Annex 2 to provide guidance to the partnership areas. 

The business plans should have the flexibility to allow for perspectives of new partners to be considered and included within them. Business plans should also be periodically reviewed. While the goal and objectives would largely remain the same over time, priorities and timelines will need to be updated regularly in the light of progress in implementation and changing circumstances. 

5.  Information Exchange

UNEP will share and disseminate information on relevant issues, develop and disseminate outreach materials and support partners as requested in addressing responsibilities.

6.  Financial Resources

Financial resources are required to operate the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership. The partnership area objectives and business plans should provide clarity for potential donors and finance institutions and assist in mobilizing resources in a systematic, focused and harmonized way to meet the goal of the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership.

7.  evaluation

The partnership areas will report biennially to UNEP in accordance with the UNEP reporting format*. UNEP will facilitate reporting of progress to governments, including the United Nations Environment Assembly or its subsidiary bodies, as appropriate.

*  UNEP will develop a systematic reporting format and timeline for the partnership areas.

Regular reports on activities undertaken within the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership will also be submitted to meetings of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

Reporting will include tracking partnership activities and partner contributions as well as assessing effectiveness, and measuring the impact of partnership activities on the achievement of the overall goal. The reports will enhance efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership.

The reports will be made available through the Partnership Secretariat’s website.