Rotterdam Convention 8th Meeting Kicks Off
Right now and until May 5th, a group of trade unionists from around the world, asbestos diseases victims groups, health and environment groups and ban asbestos networks have descended on Geneva to campaign for the listing of Chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance, as the 157 countries who are parties to the Rotterdam Convention meet for the 8th time.
The Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA team in Asia and Australia have been campaigning on a number of fronts in recent months helping to build global networks, supporting our partner organisations throughout the world to raise their voices to their own governments where they choose to, directly talking with governments in SE Asia on the case for the listing of chrysotile, mapping government positions, and exposing the asbestos industry for its deadly lies and bullying tactics. In Asia we are working closely with global union BWI, Solidar Suisse, Asia Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) and Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC).
The ACTU, AMWU and CFMEU have sent representatives and two Union Aid Abroad APHEDA staff are joining the campaigning in Geneva. Sister Hoan Thi Le Hang APHEDA Country Manager Vietnam, is an observer as part of the Vietnam NGO delegation and Phillip Hazelton APHEDA’s Campaign Coordinator for Elimination of Asbestos Related Diseases are joining as part of the ACTU delegation. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all the daily updates! Check out our Media Kit and posters here.
While it should be a straightforward decision to list this killer fibre, as it has met all conditions for listing – for 10 years it’s been blocked by just a few countries – mostly those exporting it. It amounts to an effective veto by those countries who ignore the evidence and are exposing millions in developing countries to this and other carcinogens. They face no restriction to their deadly trade because they block listing.
This year the battle lines are drawn on a second issue – breaking the veto by allowing a 75% majority vote for listing a chemical where 100% consensus is not possible.
Andrew Dettmer, National President of the AMWU and an observer to CoP 8, attended CoP7 as an observer in 2015. “It wasn’t very different to Alice in Wonderland at times. At CoP 7, the biocide Fenthion, a proven killer, was considered for listing. But because Sudan wanted to keep using it – under pressure from the chemical industry – they vetoed its listing with their one vote. It’s perverse” he said.
It will not be easy. Changing a Convention is difficult. However there are no other solutions on the table. No action at this meeting means continuing blocking of the listing of chrysotile, a convention that becomes more and more dysfunctional as more countries join and 100% consensus is less and less likely.