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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Video Message from Prime Minister Shinzo ABE at Ceremonial Opening of Diplomatic Conference on Minamata Convention on Mercury

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

At long last, this conference to breathe life into the Minamata Convention has begun. I would like to express my respect to everyone involved for their remarkable efforts to make this day possible. Because I am currently in Brunei, most regrettably, I will be unable to join you for this important meeting at which we will adopt a landmark convention that aims to eradicate mercury pollution.

It will soon be sixty years since 'Minamata Disease' was officially recognized through the diagnosis of the first four victims, including a young girl of about six. In the East, we tend to think of events in sixty-year cycles. On this occasion, my heart is filled with deep emotion. It seems appropriate that, after sixty years, a conference to help bring about a convention to regulate mercury taking the name "Minamata" will be held here in Minamata itself. I also extend my sincere condolences to all those who have lost their lives due to illnesses caused by mercury. My heart goes out to those who are still fighting these illnesses as well as to their families.

The Japanese people - including myself, a child at the time - were shocked to learn of the horrors of Minamata Disease. The disease taught the nation some poignant lessons. It has also given rise to constructive efforts over subsequent generations. The amount of mercury used in Japan has been reduced to 0.4% of the amount used in the 1960s, even though the size of the economy has grown enormously since that time. 

Japan experienced a crisis due to mercury and then recovered from it. We therefore have a responsibility to play a leading role in eliminating worldwide the suffering caused by mercury.

Enhancing the efficiency of coal-fired power plants is essential to reducing mercury emissions into the atmosphere. We must also reduce the release of mercury into rivers. I believe Japan can do more to share its technologies and experiences with the world, in order to achieve a 'mercury minimum' environment in our generation. I hereby pledge that Japan will implement a total of $2 billion in assistance over the next three years to assist developing countries in tackling environmental pollution.

As a word with four vowels, I believe you will remember 'Minamata' as the name of a place in Japan. 'Minamata' is a word that continues to warn us of the dangers of mercury pollution and of the need to take measures in response.

But more than that, it is a word of hope. The sparkle of Minamata Bay has returned, with a great variety of coral and fish living there. Their presence teaches us that we will someday be rewarded for our efforts.

I very much hope that this conference is a great success. I urge all countries to unite further in working to eradicate mercury pollution.

Thank you.


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