United Nations Environment

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United Nations Environment




     Distr.: General

    22 October 2007

     English only

    United Nations



Ad hoc Open-ended Working Group on Mercury

    First meeting

    Bangkok, 1216 November 2007

    Item 5 of the provisional agenda*

    Report on activities under the UNEP mercury programme

    Awareness raising: a modular approach

    1. The Chemicals Branch of the United Nations Environment Programme‘s Division of

    Technology, Industry and Economics (UNEP Chemicals) has developed a package of awareness-raising

    material designed to meet the need expressed by several countries for additional outreach materials. The

    package has been designed to address the information needs of Governments, industry and the general

    public and has been designed according to a modular approach in order to facilitate its use by these


    2. The draft awareness-raising material set out in the annex to the present note is available for

    comments and input from all stakeholders is welcomed. Comments should be submitted to UNEP

    Chemicals as soon as possible and not later than 31 December 2007. The material will be revised

    taking into account the comments received and will be reissued in March 2008. Governments and other

    stakeholders are encouraged to use the materials in their awareness-raising programmes on mercury and

    to provide comments to UNEP Chemicals on their experience in doing so. The document will be revised

    subsequently on the basis of those findings and reissued as necessary.

    * UNEP(DTIE)/Hg/OEWG.1/1.

K0763354 091107

     For reasons of economy, this document is printed in a limited number. Delegates are kindly requested to bring their copies to meetings and not to request additional copies.


Cover Page


    A priority for action

    Important community messages

    Note to artist: looking for a simple diagram for the front cover.



    INSIDE BACK COVER: Will be blank

    NOTE TO DESIGNER: We want to include a disclaimer for each of the modules. We seek your advice on where.


    This publication is intended to serve as a guide. While all reasonable precautions have been taken to verify the information contained in this publication, this published material is being distributed without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. UNEP disclaims any responsibility for possible inaccuracies or omissions and consequences that may flow from them. The responsibility for the interpretation and use of the material lies with the reader. Neither UNEP nor any individual involved in the preparation shall be liable for any injury, loss, damage or prejudice of any kind that may be caused by persons who have acted based on their interpretation and understanding of the information contained in this publication.

    The designations employed and the presentation of the material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the United Nations or UNEP concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

    NOTE: A CD with presentations for use will be tucked in the back of the final package.



    This is intended as one loose leaf sheet to tuck in the front of the package. It would be two-sided.

What is this publication?

    The publication is intended to raise awareness amongst stakeholders of the effects of mercury on human health, wildlife and the environment and on relevant strategies to manage and control mercury.

    It is designed for the use of government officials, community leaders, and/or workers to provide information and raise awareness about mercury and the associated environment and health risks. It is intended to contribute in building public support and the capacity to take preventive actions.

The document can be used in a number of ways:

    ; for reference,

    ; to train staff,

    ; to present or hand out as copies directly from the toolkit,

    ; to develop materials specific to your community.

How is it laid out?

    The package begins with an overview booklet. The overview booklet is a user‘s guide, providing information on general awareness raising strategies. It also highlights key messages for citizens and NGOs, governments, and small and medium size businesses.

    There follows a set of 6 specific modules that describe different aspects of the mercury issue.

    MODULE 1: Introduction to the Mercury Problem

    MODULE 2: Mercury in Products and Wastes

    MODULE 3: Mercury and Industry

    MODULE 4: Mercury Use in Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining

    MODULE 5: Mercury Use in Healthcare Settings and Dentistry

    MODULE 6: Cultural Uses of Mercury

    The organization of the modules allows you to go directly to the topic of interest. Each section is presented in a similar way and describes the risks associated with that particular issue and what people associated with it need to know in order to recognize and reduce sources of exposure to mercury and to protect themselves and their communities. Case studies are included, providing examples of how some mercury exposure situations have been handled.

    If you believe anything is missing or develop additional materials you think would be useful to others, please provide them to UNEP Chemicals Mercury Programme at the following email address We will consider including them in later versions of this document and/or post the information on our related web-site.

Why has the toolkit been developed?

    UNEP Governing Council countries have agreed that there is sufficient evidence of significant global adverse impacts from mercury and mercury compounds to warrant action on mercury.

Many people are unaware of mercury‘s risks and of sources of their potential exposure. This publication was

    developed as a response to the need to help raise awareness in certain countries and regions.

What are UNEP’s priorities for mercury?

    UNEP has the following priorities for mercury and its compounds:

    (a) To reduce atmospheric mercury emissions from human sources;



    (b) To find environmentally sound solutions for the management of waste that contains mercury and

    mercury compounds;

    (c) To reduce the global demand for mercury related to its use in products and production processes;

    (d) To reduce the global mercury supply, including considering curbing primary mining and taking into

    account a hierarchy of sources;

    (e) To find environmentally sound storage solutions for mercury;

    (f) To address remediation of existing contaminated sites that affect public and environmental health;

    (g) To increase knowledge in areas such as inventories, human and environmental exposure,

    environmental monitoring and socio-economic impacts.

Is this the only source of information on mercury?

    No, there are many places to find additional information on mercury. The information in this toolkit provides a good understanding of the various related issues and provides a basis for general awareness raising. There are also key references included throughout the modules which are of potential value to you in any outreach campaign.

    The UNEP mercury website - - offers an access to many valuable resources, including the Global Mercury Assessment, numerous reference documents and links to specific tools developed by UNEP.

    The World Health Organization has also published information related specifically to human health, and many countries around the world have developed assessments of mercury, along with guidance material for their citizens. View the WHO website at:

    The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has some excellent information related to Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining available at the following web address: .


    Cover Page: Overview Booklet

    a) General Awareness Raising Strategies

    b) Key Mercury Messages for citizens/NGOs, local government

    agencies, and small and medium size companies.



What does it mean to raise awareness about mercury?

    The goal of awareness raising is to disseminate factual information to the people who are either affected by mercury or who are in some way responsible for caring for people who may be affected by mercury to inform them about hazards associated with mercury.

    Good awareness raising campaigns are optimistic and empowering. They relay responsibility and ownership of an issue to the target audience.

How does one launch an awareness raising campaign?

    Before a full mercury awareness raising campaign starts, it is essential to assess the extent of the problem. For instance, it is important to understand the largest source of mercury, the number of people affected, the area or extent of the exposure, the mercury levels in local wildlife and humans, and actions to implement with the greatest potential for environmental benefit.

    The overall objective is to promote the understanding of the related issue and associated risks. It is helpful to establish some goals for the effort so that progress can be measured over time.

    It is likewise important to be aware of target audiences. You will want to consider who is using mercury, what government agencies and NGOs can influence change. Target audiences often include healthcare providers, governments and parents as caregivers, as well as populations that use products containing mercury or that are directly exposed to the risk through their environment or activities. Schools are another major source of information. Awareness raising campaigns can also reach out to industry to urge them to take action on the issue.

    The use of existing social networks may be one of the least expensive and most effective ways to get across information about mercury Speakers can visit schools, and materials can be developed for students that they can then take home to their parents.

    Awareness raising begins with the commitment of community leaders. Healthcare providers and religious leaders are very important sources of information for a community, since their advice is generally respected. So, they are important allies in awareness raising. There are many community-based organizations whose charter includes the dissemination of public health information and/or community economic development. Community-based organizations often communicate regularly with other groups with similar goals.

Who is the audience?

    Once the objectives for awareness raising are established, target audiences will need to be identified along with specific sub-groups within that audience.

    It may prove necessary to plan a variety of activities in order to reach out to the audience. Usually the message must be adjusted to fit the audience and priorities may have to be established. Some aspects to consider could include:

     Who needs the information the most?

     Are there existing networks in place to deliver the message?

     Who is positioned to make decisions?

     Who can influence the decision-makers?


What is the message to be delivered?

    The character of the overall message to be delivered is very important. To be effective a message should be relevant to the audience and convince them that they need to take action on the issue. Obviously, the message will vary according to the target audience.

    Note to Designer: This could be placed in a text box

    For example, when addressing an artisanal mining community, the take-home message might be:

    1. Using mercury in gold mining practices involves a risk to human health and the surrounding

    environment. You, your family and your community may be at risk of mercury poisoning.

    2. Mercury exposure for miners and their communities can be reduced by following safer

    practices that effectively extract the gold, are simple to use and cost-efficient.

    3. Even the storage, transport and handling of mercury for these purposes create a danger of

    spills and both of immediate and longer-term exposure to mercury vapour.

How does one deliver the awareness raising message?

    The message can be delivered in a number of ways:

     Public meetings and workshops are useful to deliver messages to small groups and can be effective in

    covering topics in-depth.

     Printed material such as leaflets, posters and/or stickers draw attention to the issue and can be made

    appropriate for most audiences.

     Large-scale publicity such as signs, radio or television advertisements or public service

    announcements can also be effective in drawing attention to an issue. Celebrities are often willing to

    play a role in selling the message.

     On-site training is appropriate when detailed information is required to make a difference. It is often

    best received from local people and most effective with repeated follow-up.

    With all these methods and techniques one must consider what are the most effective means to reach out to the target audience. Messages ought to be delivered in local languages.

    NOTE TO DESIGNER: This could be placed in a text box.

    Example: Calling a public meeting

    A public meeting may be called in a town or region and a group of people related by a common

    livelihood or industry invited to participate. In doing so, it is essential to inform and involve

    community or local government leaders when planning the meeting and to work with these leaders

    in advance to ensure a common understanding and widespread support for the event. Someone will

    need to ensure that everyone knows about the meeting and that relevant affected groups are


    Good listening skills are one key to success at this meeting and in the follow-up. The attendees will

    likely be able to contribute additional information about the nature of mercury use and release in

    their community and provide insight into the local perspective.

    Such a meeting could serve to establish a common understanding of the mercury problem affecting

    the community. The meeting should assist participants in developing a plan to help solve the

    problem, for example, by persuading people to change certain practices or behaviours in their homes

    or workplaces. It would be helpful to give examples of solutions that are being successfully applied

    elsewhere. Some of the case studies in this Toolkit will be useful for this purpose.



What role can the media play?

    If the right venue is chosen (newspapers, magazines, radio or television), a great number of people involved in, or potentially affected, can be warned of the risks of mercury exposure. There are many examples of the successful role of the media in community outreach in all regions of the world.

    Groups or agencies hoping to effect change with media campaigns need to identify their target audience, which in this case could be both users of mercury, and others in their community who may be exposed to it through spills, waste disposal, or contaminated buildings. Organizers should then select the most effective media venue and provider (e.g., the local radio or TV station or the daily newspaper) most likely to reach the largest number of people in their target audience.

    Media campaigns can be expensive if they involve advertising. Some newspapers, radio and television stations, however, may set aside space/time for free public service announcements.

    Another effective method is to interest journalists in the campaign and encourage them to write or to report on it. One way of attracting interest is through a press release or writing an article for a community newspaper or magazine. Other effective strategies to attract media interest can include holding a press conference or writing a letter to the local radio or television company to suggest a story on mercury and to offer an interview with an expert.

    NOTE TO DESIGNER: This could be placed in a text box.

    Preparing a press release

    A press release should be simple and direct. It should have a catchy headline and strong lead

    paragraph, answer the who, what, where, when and how, incorporate quotes of organization leaders

    or experts where possible, and provide contact details.

     1Below is an annotated example of a press release that can be used to relay your mercury message.


    The press release should be on Ministry or other official stationary.

    A standard introduction for a press release


    Who to contact for more information. Include address and phone number:


    Press Officer: _________________

    Government Communications Division, Lead Ministry: _________________

    Name and telephone contact: ______________________________________

    Succinct title that attracts the reader’s attraction

    For example: Country X puts forth an action plan to protect citizens and the environment from

    Mercury releases.

    Begin with the location and date, followed by an introduction covering all major points

     City name, Country name, date and year.

    A quote by a government representative is helpful (a Minister is desirable)

    A sample quote: ‗The mercury action plan, once implemented, will be a concrete step towards

    sustainable development for our country and will protect our citizens from the harmful effects of


     1 This information is extracted and modified from UNITAR Guidance on Action Plan Development for

    Sound Chemicals Management, 2005. It is available at .


    Include information about why this event is newsworthy

    Sample background information: This action plan on mercury was developed as part of a XX project,

    with XX funding. This action plan was developed on the basis of the results of the inventory on

    mercury use and releases that was developed in our country for this project. The action plan was

    prepared in consultation with stakeholders and is designed to ensure that our country can plan and

    work together with all sectors of government and society to strengthen our laws, policies, and

    practices related to mercury. Every year, people and the environment are needlessly exposed to

    dangerous chemicals such as mercury. This effort, when implemented, will help to minimise or

    prevent harm from mercury, providing many benefits to our society both locally and globally. The

    project, which began in our country in XX (timeframe), will conclude in XX.

    Conclude with further contact information

    For more information contact (name, telephone number(s), and web address) (if available).

How will you know you have achieved the goal?

    Evaluating an awareness raising campaign is an essential step in demonstrating success, enhancing future awareness raising efforts, and sharing lessons learned with others. It need not be complicated.

    Setting specific objectives and performance indicators at the outset is critical in evaluating and measuring the success of any campaign.

    Outcomes can be evaluated in terms of number of participants at an event, number of materials distributed, etc. Outcome measurements can be important measurements.

    Measuring or judging the impact of the activity requires a ― before and after‖ comparison and can be more difficult to measure. Surveys and follow-up visits are often used to evaluate whether the target audience learned and/or made changes as a result of the awareness raising activity.


    UNEP 1996, ‗Five Steps for Raising Awareness on Ozone Depletion‘, 1996.

UNITAR Guidance on Action Plan Development for Sound Chemicals Management, 2005.


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