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Inuit represented at global mercury negotiations in Kenya

November 3, 2011
Nairobi, Kenya

Parnuna Egede, Advisor on Environmental Issues in Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) - Greenland, is currently in Nairobi to represent the voice of the Inuit among representatives from governments from all over the world, as well as representatives from various intergovernmental an non-governmental organizations. The over 700 participants are gathered to discuss the framework of a future mercury convention. The purpose of the negotiations is to create a global legally binding instrument on the heavy metal mercury, which aims to reduce the human-caused releases of mercury to protect the environment and human health. The negotiations that take place from October 31 are the third in a row, and Inuit have been represented right from the beginning;

"My Canadian colleague Eva Kruemmel (ICC Canada) participated already in the first session, and later I joined from the second session, which took place in Japan in January. Those negotiations are relevant for Inuit, because mercury constitutes a real problem for us. Although the Arctic contains no mayor emission sources of mercury, the populations in the Arctic regions are particularly vulnerable to mercury contamination. And Inuit are even more exposed than other populations in the North, because our traditional diet includes marine mammals and certain birds and fish, which are placed high in the food chain and therefore contain a lot of mercury." says Parnuna, and continues:

"The pollution comes primarily from sources further South, where it is transported over long distances with winds and ocean currents to the Arctic, and then becomes concentrated in the food chain and in the end in us. Therefore we follow the UN negotiations closely, as the final result will have a direct effect on our health. We can follow the progress of the work and where any disagreements arise between countries. And whenever we can, we remind the countries of their global responsibility with regards to the health effects of the contamination for Indigenous Peoples' and other vulnerable populations. In this way we try to influence the negotiations towards a stronger and more ambitious convention."

The third round of negotiations will end Friday evening, and therefore participants are working very hard during the meeting to obtain progress in the process before the next round will be held in June 2012. The mercury convention is expected to be concluded in 2013 after a fifth round of negotiations, but even though we are half way in the process, there is still a long way and many compromises to be made between countries before the world community can be ready with a new and finished international agreement on regulation of mercury.

Do you want to know more?

Read more at the UNEP official INC3 website:
http://www.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/Mercury/Negotiations/INC3/tabid/3469/Default.aspx

Read daily summaries of the meetings on The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) Reporting Services:
http://www.iisd.ca/mercury/inc3/