Act now – UN discussions on deadly chrysotile asbestos may be sabotaged by industry lobbyists – again!

20 April 2017 12:24

Once again the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention is meeting in Geneva 24 April – 5 May, as Government representatives from 160 countries gather to discuss which hazardous substances should be listed for Prior Informed Consent when trading them between countries. It is essentially a simple right to know mechanism for export and import of the most hazardous substances.

Applying the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedures to chrysotile asbestos would provide potentially life saving advice on hazards and how best to control them. This is the aim of the UN’s Rotterdam Convention. Not a ban, but listing of chrysotile under PIC requirements.

This is the sixth time that the UN has recommended the inclusion of deadly Chrysotile asbestos, and each time their efforts have been frustrated by the chrysotile asbestos producing nations. The scientific evidence is clear: each year at least 107 thousand people die from asbestos diseases, according to the official figures from the International Labour Organisation, the World Health Organisation and the International Social Security Association. 

The problem is that exporting countries have used the right of veto to exclude chrysotile asbestos from the Convention. Their commercial interests are well known, and they are determined to protect their asbestos export market at all costs, by sending as delegates representatives of the chrysotile industry.

The system of the Rotterdam Convention is openly manipulated by the asbestos industry. Just a handful of producing countries, led by Russia, are cynically undermining efforts by the vast majority of governments who want to see chrysotile listed. It is very likely to be a repeat performance this time unless two thirds majority voting is introduced in the Convention.

The big difference this time is that a proposal to introduce majority voting has been submitted by the governments of Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia, and will be considered on the 27th of April. You can support this initiative by writing to your government to vote for a fairer system using our model letter.

”Chrysotile meets all the criteria for inclusion,” says Ambet Yuson, BWI General Secretary “so it is outrageous that this is being blatantly and persistently blocked by asbestos exporting countries. We need all governments to push the exporting nations to behave responsibly, and to recognise that is Convention is fundamentally flawed. We want governments to support this call for a two thirds majority vote in order to put an end to this farcical situation, which completely undermines the credibility of this important international convention.”

Please use this model letter to ask your government to support the resolution put forward by the Africa Group: