ABAN 2021 Conference calls on Asian countries to speed up moves to ban deadly asbestos
On September 28-30, ban asbestos and victim networks from across the Asia Pacific region came together online for the Asia Ban Asbestos Network’s (ABAN) three-day conference. Alongside representatives from global health and safety organisations and trade unions, delegates from 21 countries including India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Australia, Cambodia, Fiji, and Bangladesh shared insights and information on the growing global effort to eradicate asbestos-related diseases that, according to the ILO, are responsible for over 230,000 deaths each year globally. The conference heard from the CEO of the Australian Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), as well as the President of the International Commission on Occupational Health. Together, participants devised new strategies for advocating for the urgency of national asbestos bans in their respective countries and overcoming possible barriers to their campaigning. They stressed that the longer countries delay bans, the higher the cost to human life, the economy, and the environment.
ABAN 2021 also provided a platform for victims of asbestos-related diseases to share their stories. In a powerful session on the second day of the conference, victims from across the region spoke of their experiences and pointed to corporate greed as the key driver behind the ongoing use and manufacture of deadly asbestos materials. Many also spoke of the ways the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated their poor health conditions by further reducing already limited access to healthcare.
After three nights of highly engaging presentations and robust discussion in smaller breakout groups, the conference concluded with the passage of a joint resolution to strengthen global efforts for an asbestos-free world. Vowing to continue the campaign to ban asbestos for as long as necessary, ABAN member organisations pledged to increase their campaign efforts and work to hold the asbestos manufacturing sector accountable. The resolution also reaffirmed ABAN members’ commitment to global collaboration, and stressed the importance of international solidarity in finally achieving total asbestos bans throughout the region.
Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA would like to extend our thanks and congratulations to all who participated in this insightful and invigorating conference. We — no doubt like many other attendees — are coming away with plenty of new knowledge and a strengthened commitment to the fight to #BanAsbestosNow.