Convention on mercury: a success of multilateralism

Bern, 28.09.2017 - Doris Leuthard, President of the Swiss Confederation, participated on 28 September 2017 in the Conference of the Parties (COP1) to the Minamata Convention on Mercury that began last Sunday in Geneva. Before the approximately 80 ministers in attendance, Doris Leuthard called the new convention “a success of multilateralism”. She also pointed out that Switzerland was in the process of adapting its legislation in line with the Convention’s objectives.

On Thursday, 28 September 2017, Doris Leuthard, President of the Swiss Confederation, opened the ministerial segment of the COP1 to the Minamata Convention on Mercury. This convention, which came into force on 16 August 2017, is named after the Japanese city plagued by very serious mercury pollution starting in the 1940s. Mercury is a highly toxic heavy metal that is hazardous to health and the environment and is used in chemical processes to make products and to extract gold from artisanal mines.

In her speech, the President of the Swiss Confederation stated that the Minamata Convention is a success of multilateralism, which has made it possible to develop “a global solution to a global challenge". From now on, “the name Minamata will no longer only be associated with a problem, but with a solution", she said. The Minamata Convention is the first environmental treaty negotiated and adopted in the 21st century and applies principles that will be used in the Paris Agreement, such as that all States must contribute to the solution and may use a combination of voluntary and binding measures.

Doris Leuthard also mentioned the role that Switzerland has played. In fact, Switzerland and Norway initiated the idea of an agreement on mercury. The negotiations were finalised in Geneva in 2013. To ensure consistency and efficiency, Switzerland is offering to host the Convention’s secretariat in Geneva, where a centre of expertise for hazardous chemical products and wastes already exists.

Implementing the Convention

The President of the Swiss Confederation insisted on the necessity of implementing the Convention. Switzerland is currently adapting its legislation to reduce mercury imports, exports and uses at the national level. Mercury, particularly the mercury obtained from recycled waste, must be stabilised and stored using environmentally-friendly methods or exported only for authorised uses in accordance with the Convention.

Meeting with David Granger, President of the Republic of Guyana

The President of the Swiss Confederation also met with the President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, David Granger. Their discussions specifically concerned the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), an organisation of 15 countries including Guyana, and the potential for greater cooperation between Switzerland and the organisation.

Address for enquiries

Franz Perrez, Ambassador for the Environment and Head of the International Affairs Division, FOEN, +41 79 251 90 15
Elisabeth Maret, information officer, FOEN, +41 79 371 62 82


General Secretariat of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications; General Secretariat DETEC

Federal Office for the Environment FOEN