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Reflections on Minamata COP-5 – Abigail Ocate

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Readers note: From October 31 to November 2, 2023, Artisanal Gold Council staff from Canada, Burkina Faso, Mongolia, and The Philippines attended the Fifth Annual Conference of the Parties (COP 5) to the Minamata Convention. 

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Abigail Ocate is the National Project Manager for the GEF-funded and Artisanal Gold Council executed planetGOLD Philippines project.

Question (Q): What was your main takeaway from COP5?

Abigail Ocate (AO): COP5 yielded several key takeaways that underscore a commitment to addressing the complex challenges associated with mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM). Firstly, the recognition of the vital role of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in reducing and eliminating mercury use in ASGM signifies a commitment to inclusivity. The acknowledgment extends to incorporating their unique perspectives and traditional knowledge, emphasizing a collaborative approach to addressing the complexities of mercury use.

Secondly, the encouragement for Parties and stakeholders to safeguard and reinforce traditional livelihoods and cultural practices within ASGM communities reflects an understanding of the socio-economic and cultural dimensions at play. This recognition implies an intention to address the broader implications of ASGM beyond environmental concerns.

Lastly, the COP’s call for further actions in developing and implementing National Action Plans related to ASGM demonstrates a commitment to a strategic and coordinated approach at the national level in addressing the challenges posed by mercury use in the ASGM sector.

Overall, the decisions made at COP-5 emphasize a multi-faceted commitment to addressing mercury-related issues in ASGM that encompasses environmental, cultural, and strategic perspectives.

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[L-R] AGC Executive Director Roger Tissot, AGC Philippines National Project Manager Abigail Ocate, AGC Burkina Faso National Project Manager Saidou Kabre, and AGC Mongolia Field Coordinator & Community Relations Manager Khishgee Dondov attend COP-5 in Geneva, Switzerland
(Q): What can AGC do to continue furthering the goals of the Minamata Convention?

(AO): To further the goals of the Minamata Convention, AGC has the potential to make a significant impact through targeted strategies. Primarily, emphasis should be placed on capacity-building and awareness-raising initiatives. AGC can contribute by offering training and capacity-building programs tailored for government officials, communities, and relevant stakeholders on mercury-free alternatives and best practices related to ASGM.

Community engagement is also crucial. AGC can work directly with affected communities, especially small-scale miners, to understand their needs and challenges. By facilitating community engagement, AGC can contribute to developing and implementing projects designed to reduce mercury use and promote sustainable practices within the ASGM sector.

Additionally, policy support is paramount. AGC should collaborate closely with governments to develop and reinforce national policies and regulations in alignment with the Minamata Convention’s objectives. This includes ensuring that these policies reflect the commitments made by the respective countries as signatories to the treaty. AGC can further contribute by providing technical assistance in formulating National Action Plans, ensuring their comprehensiveness and effectiveness in addressing mercury-related challenges. Through these concerted efforts, AGC can play a pivotal role in advancing the objectives of the Minamata Convention.

(Q): Are we making progress?

(AO): The Government partners of AGC in implementing the planetGOLD Philippines project initiated a collaboration in developing a project proposal aimed at aiding a more significant number of small-scale miners.

This proactive engagement by the Government signals a strong endorsement of AGC’s expertise. It underscores the significance of our contributions in addressing the challenges faced by the ASGM in the country.

The fact that such collaboration is unfolding after the planetGOLD initiative is particularly telling, as it suggests a continued and expanding role for AGC in shaping projects that align with the objectives of the Minamata Convention. In addition, we are also one of the organizations the government is considering to execute the NAP project for the Philippines.

(Q): What can you and your team do to advance progress towards Minamata Convention goals?

(AO): As the team executing the planetGOLD Philippines Project, we will ensure that activity outputs will serve as a significant input to the NAP that our government partners will develop. All project outcomes, outputs, lessons learned, and best practices will also be properly documented and shared with key stakeholders. This should help them replicate relevant activities in other small-scale mining areas.

(Q): How is AGC different from other organizations doing the same or similar work, and how can we leverage our unique place in the international community?

(AO): AGC distinguishes itself from other organizations through a combination of specialized expertise in ASGM, strategic partnerships, and a focus on sustainable development. AGC’s in-depth understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities within the ASGM positions the organization as a leading authority in this sector. The organization’s strength lies in its collaborative networks and partnerships, fostering strategic alliances with governments, NGOs, and industry stakeholders, facilitating knowledge exchange and resource pooling. In addition, what sets AGC apart is its commitment to innovative solutions and technologies in the ASGM sector and its strong emphasis on community empowerment and inclusivity.

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Abigail Ocate joins one of the panel discussion during the COP-5 in Switzerland.

To leverage its position in the international community, AGC focuses on knowledge sharing and thought leadership by actively participating in global forums and conferences. The organization contributes to capacity building and training initiatives, sharing expertise and best practices globally. AGC advocates for policy reforms, actively engaging in national and international discussions to shape regulations supporting responsible and sustainable ASGM practices. 

Emphasizing transparency and impact reporting enhances AGC’s credibility, attracting support from donors and partners. Cultivating strategic alliances with reputable organizations and exploring diversified funding opportunities contributes to AGC’s long-term sustainability. Through these strategies, AGC aims to amplify its impact and contribute significantly to the sustainable development of the ASGM industry on a global scale.


Below is a summary of this important step, part of the overall summary of the work done at the Minamata COP5:

Among the decisions made at COP-5, Parties defined new dates to phase out mercury-added products including cosmetics, strengthened ties with Indigenous Peoples, advanced the first effectiveness evaluation of the Convention, and reached an agreement on a threshold for mercury waste. Read the press release with the main outcomes and watch the press conference and the video of the last day of the meeting.

Source: Official website of the Artisanal Gold Council, the planetGOLD Philipines project's executing agency

 

Based in Victoria, Canada, the Artisanal Gold Council is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the working conditions, opportunities, environment, and health of the millions of people involved in ASGM in the developing world.

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