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Jan/Feb 2013
 In this issue:

SPOTLIGHT: MERCURY
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Blacksmith Introduces Global Alliance at INC5

Blacksmith attended the INC5 mercury negotiations in Geneva last month with details about the new Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) and how it can help support the worldwide effort to curb mercury pollution. 

Fernando Lugris, chair of the INC mercury negotiations (second from left) with GAHP members representing the EU, WHO, GIZ, UNEP and other organizations and countries.

As Secretariat of the GAHP, Blacksmith organized casual "sweet breaks," which brought together participants and delegates every afternoon over the weeklong negotiations.

The breaks offered numerous opportunities for informal dialogue between GAHP members (EU, UNEP, UNIDO, GIZ), SAICM, and representatives from various organizations and countries including Peru and Uruguay. Fernando Lugris, chair of the INC negotiations and a supporter of the GAHP (pictured above on the left with GAHP representatives), stopped by several times to chat. 


Fernando Lugris, chair of the INC mercury negotiations holds up Pez-Peste"While the new agreement provides an important framework for countries to follow, the GAHP allows low- and middle-income countries to get the help they need to actually make changes," explained Lillian Cora, Blacksmith's government relationship advisor for South America. "We got a lot of interest in the GAHP because many of the conference participants recognized that the GAHP fills a need." 

Related Q&A:  Global Alliance for a Toxics- Free World

[Fernando Lugris, chair of the INC negotiations, holds up a sculpture of a fish symbolizing the consequences of mercury pollution.  Pez-Peste, by Argentine artist Nicholas Garcia Uriburu, was presented to the INC by Lillian Cora at an earlier meeting.]

Key INC5 Agreement Details

Blacksmith participated in the INC mercury talks to ensure that issues related to mercury cleanup and contaminated sites would not be ignored. The INC5 agreement between more than 140 countries, called the the Minamata Convention on Mercury (named after the Japanese town that suffered one of the world's worst cases of mercury poisoning), includes Article 14 that deals with identifying, assessing and managing contaminated sites, and Article 20 governing the health of at-risk populations.

ARTICLE 14 on CONTAMINATED SITES requires each party to endeavor to develop appropriate strategies for identifying and assessing sites contaminated by mercury or mercury compounds, with any actions taken to reduce the risks posed by such sites to be performed in an environmentally sound manner incorporating, where appropriate, an assessment of the risks to human health and the environment from the mercury or mercury compounds they contain.

In addition, Article 14 requires the COP (Conference of the Parts) to adopt guidance on managing contaminated sites that may include methods and approaches for: site identification and characterization; engaging the public; human health and environmental risk assessments; options for managing the risks posed by contaminated sites; evaluation of benefits and costs; and validation of outcomes.

Article 14 also encourages parties to cooperate in developing strategies and implementing activities for identifying, assessing, prioritizing, managing and, as appropriate, remediating contaminated sites.

In ARTICLE 20 BIS on HEALTH ASPECTS, parties are encouraged to: 
  • promote the development and implementation of strategies and programs to identify and protect populations at risk, particularly vulnerable populations, including science-based health guidelines, targets for mercury exposure reduction and public education; promote the development and implementation of science-based educational and preventive programs on occupational exposure to mercury and mercury compounds;
  • promote appropriate healthcare services for prevention, treatment and care for populations affected by the exposure to mercury or mercury compounds; 
  • establish and strengthen the institutional and health professional capacities for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of health risks related to the exposure to mercury and mercury compounds.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is expected to be adopted during a diplomatic conference to be held from 7-11 October 2013, in Kumamoto/Minamata, Japan.

New Project Lauches in Indonesia; New Report on Rising Threat of Mercury 

UNEP mercury reportWhile the recent INC5 agreement offers a framework for change in global mercury use, Blacksmith's new project, which launched Feb. 12, is aimed at sparking that change from the ground up in Indonesia.

The project is the latest in Blacksmith's continuing work in Indonesia, one of the world's largest gold producing countries, in a region that is responsible for about half the world's annual mercury emissions, according to a recent UNEP report "Mercury: Time to Act". The report points to the rising threat of mercury, noting that the amount of mercury in the top 100 meters of the world's oceans has doubled over the past century. 


Watch Video: Child gold minersUnder the project, a group of miners from the Philippines are currently working in three different gold mining communities along Indonesia's Kalimantan river to train local artisanal gold miners in the borax method of processing gold without the use of toxic mercury. This traditional method has been used in the Philippines for the past 30 years and could hold the key to reducing the amount of mercury used in gold mining worldwide.

The quick-start project is being funded with $40,000 raised over the holiday season.  Thank you to all our generous supporters for making change possible.  Watch Video of child gold miners in Indonesia.

Blacksmith and Vance Center Collaborate to Create Legal Guide for Contaminated Site Management

Blacksmith is working with different countries in Latin America to identify toxic hotspots so that they can be prioritized for further evaluation and intervention.  As part of this effort, the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice is working to provide a guide with recommendations for a legal framework to identify, manage and remediate contaminated sites.  This guide will be shared with governments in the region pursuing efforts in this area. 

The Vance Center strengthens democratic transition by engaging lawyers across borders to advance fundamental justice in countries undertaking legal and institutional reform.  Along with international law firms, it provides pro bono legal assistance to NGOs in the areas of international human rights and environmental sustainability.

AuthorAID Seeks Mentors for Researchers

AuthorAID, the international research community that helps researchers in developing countries write about and publish their work, is looking for mentors. Are you a senior researcher or editor who can provide mentoring support to up-and-coming researchers?
  • Would you like to volunteer for a cause that's related to higher education or research?
  • Are you keen to share your knowledge of research writing and scholarly publishing?
  • Do you enjoy coaching or mentoring?
If you answered ‘yes’ to the above, then make a difference and sign up to be an AuthorAID mentor.

If you are an early-career researcher, note that the Feb. 28 deadline is fast closing for applications to the first online environmental health research writing course developed by AuthorAid in collaboration with Blacksmith. 

  • Appy to be a mentor here.

  • Apply for the free online environmental health research writing course here.  Deadline  Feb. 28.

Nominations for Green Star Awards Due March 15

Green Star AwardsNominations are now open for the 2013 Green Star Awards, which recognizes "those who have made remarkable efforts to prevent, prepare for, and respond to environmental disasters around the world."

Blacksmith received that honor in 2011. We would like to thank the UN and Green Cross for their continued support of our work. See what the award means to Blacksmith.
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Blacksmith Institute works in some of the world's worst polluted places to solve
pollution problems
and clean up contaminated sites in order to save lives.
Blacksmith is currently engaged in over 40 projects in 19 countries.

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