Putting the brakes on asbestos in global trade

Feb 28, 2017

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, trade unions and ban asbestos networks globally are organising together to make 2017 the year to finally shake up the global asbestos trade.

It’s hard to believe there isn’t yet a global ban on chrysotile (white) asbestos like there already is for other types of asbestos.

Sadly the ‘dangerous dust’ is still being promoted by leading asbestos-exporting countries (like Russia, Brazil, China, Kazakstan), falsely claiming that is safe to use. These countries export to mostly developing or transition countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam in our region that haven’t yet joined 58 countries around the world to put national bans in place.

In May 2017, a United Nations meeting of countries that are party to the Rotterdam Convention will meet to decide if the world should take the first step to banning asbestos world-wide.

So why is the Rotterdam Convention significant?
The Rotterdam Convention is a binding multilateral treaty that deals with hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade. Listing a chemical into Annex 3 of this convention doesn’t mean a ban – just a lot more restrictions and notifications on any chemicals or products that are listed as hazardous before they can be traded, to help protect users, customers and the public from exposure. A listing would be a significant blow to the asbestos industry.

Currently 157 countries, including 26 in the Asia/Pacific region, have ratified this convention. Members meet every 2 years and the next meeting is early May 2017. Up until now decisions to get a chemical or mineral listed must be by 100% consensus of all countries.

The problem?
For more than a decade the committee associated with the convention has recommended white asbestos be listed. Each time it is blocked by just a small group of mainly asbestos-exporting countries.

A solution?
This year a group of 11 African countries have had enough of this small number of countries holding the rest of the world to ransom.

They are tabling an amendment to the convention to allow 75% approval when consensus is not possible. This would be consistent with other related Conventions such as the Stockholm Convention and Basel Convention that already have this provision.

The campaign in the coming two months
To try once and for all to get asbestos listed for banning, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is campaigning with local trade unions, ban asbestos coalitions and community groups in the Asia-Pacific region to make sure every government hears the message – take the first step to a global ban on deadly asbestos –  list white asbestos on Annex 3 of the Rotterdam Convention and support the African amendment to stop the ‘consensus vote’ sham.

People everywhere must be protected from exposure to this deadly fibre and from the many devastating cancers and related diseases it causes.

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is:

  • Coordinating with trade unions and local community groups in the Asia Pacific region to organise action in their countries to promote a global asbestos ban with their governments and communities in the next vital months ahead.
  • Actions include letters to their governments, meetings with leaders, community awareness events, organising at workplaces, public rallies, information sessions for members of parliament. Local actions to get the message across and build the pressure.
  • Working with Australian unions to urge the Australian Government to take a leading role for a global asbestos ban and also promote support for them to governments around the world, through Australian Embassies.
  • Working with ban asbestos groups to support local campaigners and asbestos related disease victims from Asia, to go to the Rotterdam Convention meeting to directly raise their voices.


What you can do:

Join Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA today – help us make this happen!

Take action – go to our campaign website here.

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