13 June 2019: The 56th meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council, which convened from 11-13 June 2019, approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Council and the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, as well as a five-year project on managing toxic chemicals in small island developing States (SIDS).

The MoU, which was previously adopted by Minamata COP 2 in November 2018, details the ways in which the COP will provide GEF with guidance to address strategies, policies, programme priorities and eligibility for access to and use of financial resources. It also includes an indicative list of categories of activities that could receive GEF Trust Fund support. The MoU explains that funding decisions for projects and activities will be agreed between Convention Parties, and the GEF must conform with COP guidance, which the COP will regularly review and revise if necessary.

The MoU notes that the Council will submit reports to each COP, providing, inter alia, a synthesis of Council-approved projects and projects being implemented during the reporting period in relation to mercury, with an indication of resources allocated to and the implementation status of each project. The Council will also report on GEF monitoring and evaluation activities concerning projects in the chemicals and waste focal area in relation to mercury. The COP will also, per the MoU, regularly review the level of funding, guidance provided by the COP, the GEF’s effectiveness and its ability to address the changing needs of developing country Parties and Parties with economies in transition under the Convention.

In addition, the MoU describes cooperation between the two Secretariats, explaining that they will communicate and cooperate with each other and regularly consult to facilitate GEF’s effectiveness in assisting developing-country Parties and Parties with economies in transition to implement their obligations under the Convention. In particular, the Minamata Convention Secretariat, in accordance with the GEF project cycle, will be invited to comment on the project proposals related to mercury under consideration for inclusion in proposed GEF work programmes. The two Secretariats will also consult on draft texts of documents relevant to both the Convention and GEF and consider any comments prior to their finalization. GEF and Convention representatives will also be invited to attend each others’ meetings.

The GEF Council meeting also approved the programme on ‘Implementing Sustainable and Low and Non-Chemical Development in SIDS (ISLANDS),’ which is backed by USD 61 million in GEF funding with partner co-financing of over USD 389 million. The ISLANDS Programme will work in 27 SIDS to manage the growing impacts of chemicals and wastes on their environments.

The programme aims to eliminate 23,236 metric tons of toxic chemicals, including 38 metric tons of mercury and 619 metric tons of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and to prevent the release of more than 185,000 metric tons of marine litter. The project is being supported by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). [GEF Press Release on Approval of Work Program] [GEF Work Program] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Outcome of 56th GEF Council Meeting]