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t the 22nd session of the United Nations Environment Programme Governing Council (UNEP GC) held in December 2003, UNEP presented the first report titled "Global Mercury Assessment-GMA" concerning the effects of mercury pollution on the quality of ecosystems and on the human health. The UNEP GC, in the same session, established the "Mercury Programme" to stimulate the scientific community to undertake research activities on mercury. The need to improve our knowledge on mercury emissions, released from a large number of industrial facilities as well as from mining and manufacturing activities, was underlined. The importance of providing support to all countries, to take action to control mercury emissions and the population exposure to various forms of pollution, was also affirmed by UNEP.

In 2005, during the 23rd Session, the UNEP GC called (UNEP GC Decision 23/9 IV) for mercury partnerships between governments and other stakeholders as one approach to reduce the risks to human health and the environment from the release of mercury and its compounds to the environment. In response to UNEP GC Decision 23/9, five Partnership Areas were identified in 2005:

    mercury release from coal combustion,
    artisanal and small scale gold mining,
    mercury cell chlor-alkali production, 
    mercury in products, and
    mercury air transport and fate research (UNEP F&T). 

The overall aim of partnership areas is to provide up to date information on specific aspects related to mercury contamination and its impact on human health and the environment.

In 2009 the UNEP GC agreed on the need to develop a global legally binding instrument on mercury and the 25/5 GC decision specified the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership (GMP) as one of the main mechanisms for the delivery of immediate actions on mercury during the negotiation process. The UNEP GMP currently has eight Partnership areas that reflect the major source categories. The most recent Partnership Areas are: 

  Mercury Waste Management;  
  Mercury Supply and Storage and
  Mercury reduction from the cement industry.

The overall goal of the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership is to protect human health and the global environment from the release of mercury and its compounds by minimizing and, where feasible, ultimately eliminating global, anthropogenic mercury releases to air, water and land.

A Partnership Advisory Group was established in 2009 to encourage the work of the partnership areas. Its membership includes partnership area leaders, partners nominated by the partnership areas and other representatives. The PAG meets annually within UNEP and provides an update on the activities of each partnership. The first PAG meeting was held in 2009 in Geneva. The most recent meeting (PAG5) was held in Edinburgh, Scotland, on July 27th, 2013.