PRESS RELEASE : Geneva, May 15, 2015
For immediate release
Rotterdam Convention moving backwards, say civil society groups
Four countries highjack international agreement, intended to protect human health and environment.
Regrettably, it comes as no surprise that the seventh Conference of the Parties of the Rotterdam Convention (COP7) again failed to list chrysotile asbestos on Annex III of the Convention. During the course of week, civil society groups attending COP7 have expressed grave alarm that once more the Convention has been hijacked by the asbestos industry, in a determined effort to prevent the environmental and health protections of the Convention from being implemented.
For the fifth time, a handful of countries, allied to the asbestos industry have refused to allow chrysotile asbestos to be added to the Convention’s list of hazardous substances, even though the Convention’s Expert Scientific Committee has repeatedly recommended that it be listed, and even though it has been recognized that the listing of chrysotile asbestos would meet all the criteria of the Convention. Industry and government propagandists at the meeting advanced spurious and discredited arguments alleging that there was no evidence that chrysotile asbestos endangered human health. These arguments were graphically dismantled by the testimony of an asbestosis sufferer from Mumbai who had been occupationally exposed to chrysotile asbestos. He urged the convention to finally face up to its responsibilities and take appropriate action on chrysotile.
At an asbestos side event organized by civil society groups on May 13, 2015 a film from the World Health Organization was premiered entitled: “Chrysotile Asbestos – Voices from South-East Asia.” The testimony of asbestos-injured victims from Mumbai made a big impact on the participants.
With their obstruction of the listing of chrysotile asbestos, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Zimbabwe revealed their determination to bury the hazards of chrysotile asbestos, and thwart the objective of the Rotterdam Convention: the requirement that countries practice responsible trade by obtaining prior informed consent before they export hazardous substances to another country. One of the arguments advanced by countries opposed to listing is that they would incur extra costs as a result. This argument, however is simplistic; it fails to recognise the enormous health and economic costs that arise due to the use of chrysotile asbestos – already reckoned in hundreds of billions of dollars. While industry takes its profits, enormous costs are put on the shoulders of taxpayers and hundreds of thousands of sick victims.
Alexandra Caterbow, cqo-coordinator of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance (ROCA), pointed out in her final statement to the plenary session: “For the fifth time chrysotile asbestos was not listed in Annex III. Each time the Convention fails to list chrysotile asbestos, thousands more tons will be traded without countries prior informed consent. Every year you do not list, thousands and thousands of people will be exposed to this substance, which means their death sentence1. It is essential that a way is found to make the Convention work. We as NGOs are ready to contribute as much as we can to achieve the Convention´s objective: to protect health and the environment.”
During plenary discussions, numerous countries said that they were thinking about banning chrysotile asbestos now, since without listing, the Rotterdam Convention would not allow them to access their right of prior informed consent and protect their borders.
In addition to ROCA, other civil society organisations, such as trade unions and NGOs, who have been working for years on the listing of chrysotile asbestos on the Rotterdam Convention, staged events and meetings around the conference area, in an attempt to counter misinformation originating from the industry propaganda outlets.
CSO groups globally, and especially in Asian-Pacific countries, will actively seek new strategies for empowering asbestos victims in targeted countries like India, Indonesia and Vietnam and throughout the region.
For more information:
Kathleen Ruff, Right on Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org
Alexandra Caterbow, WECF, email@example.com, +49 179 5244994
Laurie Kazan-Allen, International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sanjiv Pandita, ABAN email@example.com
Tran Tuan, Vn-BAN, firstname.lastname@example.org
 WHO. “Chrysotile Asbestos – Voices from South-East Asia.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiF3xGXFTI and http://www.searo.who.int/entity/occupational_health/asbestos/en/
OEHNI Press Release, 14.5.2015
India blocks listing of Chrysotile Asbestos in Rotterdam Convention: Hides behind smokescreen of bogus science
India along with a handful of countries including Russia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Cuba once again blocked the listing of Chrysotile Asbestos in the Prior Informed Consent list (PIC) at a UN convention meeting currently underway in Geneva, using bogus science and advocating “controlled use”. We would like to point out that “Controlled” or “safe” use of all varieties of asbestos including Chrysotile is a “myth” and that all major independent scientific bodies including the WHO and ILO have categorically stated that Chrysotile (white) asbestos cannot be safely used. Mere listing of chrysotile in the PIC list does not constitute a trade ban or ban on use but it helps the importing country to get information regarding the hazardous effects of the chemical and empowers them to take an informed decision. The Indian delegation should be directed to act with the knowledge that listing chrysotile asbestos under the Convention does not constitute a trade ban on chrysotile asbestos.
More than 800 victims of Chrysotile asbestos related disorders have been diagnosed by independent doctors across the country. One of these victims has also travelled to Geneva to participate in the conference and urged the delegates to allow the listing.
The Indian officials participating in the convention have based their position on a study done by National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) which was conducted with active funding and participation by the asbestos industry. This study has been reviewed by a body of scientists and scientific organizations from across the world, who have found serious flaws in the design, methodology and interpretation of the results. They have written a statement regarding the flawed nature of the study and requested India to recall the study and to support the inclusion of Chrysotile Asbestos in the PIC list (http://www.anroev.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Statement-of-scientists-re-chrysotile-asbestos-March-21-2015.pdf).
The Indian position is contrary to the rules and regulations of the country and is untenable, unscientific, and unpardonable. It is only going to lead to a disaster of unimaginable proportions.
We urge the Prime Minister to ensure that Indian government officials take a stand which is favourable to the health and safety of Indian workers, the community and the environment and not be influenced by the asbestos industry at the UN meeting. We urge the Prime Minister to re-adopt India’s 2011 position on chrysotile asbestos and favour its listing at the UN Convention.
For Details: Mohit Gupta, Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India (OEHNI), Ph – 9811369045, Email – email@example.com, Web – www.oehni.in
Press Releases COP 5
- WECF Press Release, Date 24. June 2011
“Now we have to wait for another two years to be able to protect the lives of thousands of people around the world”
Geneva, June 24 2011 – The decision to oppose the listing of chrysotile asbestos, a well known carcinogen, under the Rotterdam Convention at the meeting of the Parties in Geneva, the COP 5, this week is a sad example how one single country, in this case it was Canada, can harm the lives of thousands of people around the world.
Canada is one of the main exporters of chrysotile asbestos, a hazardous substance which more than 50 countries worldwide have stopped using and which the World Health Organisation estimates to cause around 100.000 deaths each year.
The decision to list chrysotile asbestos on Annex III of the Rotterdam convention needs to be taken in consensus. Because Canada blocked the listing, it is impossible for countries to know whether asbestos is exported in their country or not. No prior information is required from the exporters. Therefore especially developing countries and countries with economies in transition are not able to protect their people from asbestos, which is highly carcinogenic, as they are not informed of the hazards and are not able to refuse to accept it if they believe they cannot handle it safely.
This time Canada, as one of the biggest producers of asbestos worldwide, was mainly opposing to this mechanism, for political reasons, which are solely domestically. Not only that Canada takes an irresponsible position, it also revealed it in the last moment, when other countries, which are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Vietnam, all changed their position to be in favour of listing.
Soon after, Canada was awarded with a ‘Cancer Culprit Award’ from the anti-asbestos group CancerCulprits.org, identifying Canada as a “rogue nation in the company of an unprincipled few”.
ROCA delegate at COP5 Madhu Dutta says:“There is no doubt amongst the observers in Switzerland, that Canada had planned to let other countries do its dirty work in perpetuating the chrysotile veto. When the opposition of the dissent vote looked close to collapse, Canada emerged from the shadows. The disrespect shown by Canada for other delegations and their countries and human health and for the survival of the Rotterdam Convention is breathtaking.”
WECF attended the meeting on behalf of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance (ROCA), which represented civil society at the conference, was shocked by Canada’s behavior. WECF’s Alexandra Caterbow says: " Canada used shameful tactics. We were very close to reach consensus until Canada break its silence. Now we have to wait another two years for the next COP, to achieve protection for many people."
Unless consensus among countries can be achieved, chrysotile asbestos will remain off Annex III, contrary to the recommendation of the UN convention's scientific expert committee. In Canada, many have expressed their disbelief with the Harper government’s move. Canada itself severy restricts the use of asbestos within its own country.
WECF is a network of a hundred women's and environmental organisations in 40 countries. WECF has three offices: in the Netherlands, Germany and France. WECF mobilises women to find affordable solutions to the environmental health problems in their communities and encourages women in decision making. WECF works for a healthy environment for all, including the safe management of chemicals.
Note for the editors
For more information, please contact Chantal van den Bossche, press officer WECF tel: 0031.6.28129992, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com ; www.wecf.eu
- Read more on WECF's work as part of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance (ROCA) here
- Read more here about the UN vote: Rotterdam Convention by the Conference of the Parties’ Fifth Meeting (COP5)
- Website of the Rotterdam Convention: http://www.pic.int/
- For more information about the Cancer Culprits Awards, please contact:Aneil Jaswal, director Cancer Culprit Awards, firstname.lastname@example.org
- BANI Pressrelease Date 24. Juni 2011 14:38:31 MESZ
BANI Welcomes India's First Step Towards Prohibition of Asbestos at UN Meet
24/6/2011New Delhi/Patna: Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) Welcomes India's dramatic change in position at the UN Meet on Hazardous Chemicals in Switzerland unlike Canada, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam who voted against listing chrysotile asbestos or white asbestos in Annexure III of the Rotterdam Convention on hazardous materials.The list makes it legally compulsory for asbestos producing countries to warn importing countries of the health risks associated with the cancer-causing chemical. Indian Government reversed its past opposition to its listing.
The fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP5) to the UN's Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade underway in Geneva, Switzerland concludes today. The meeting which commenced on 20th June dealt with the possible inclusion of four new chemicals including Endosulfan and Chrysotile Asbestos in Annex III to the Rotterdam Convention.
Meanwhile, international unions and Indo-Canadian Community has denounced Canadian Government's support for Chrysotile Asbestos based companies at COP5. Environmental groups in India have severely criticized the irresponsible act of Canadian government to adopt a colonial attitude of criminal callousness in the matter of incurable diseases caused by Canadian asbestos mined in Quebec and traded world wide. BANI deprecates the stand of Canadian Government which is akin to supporting slow poisoning of citizens in India and elsewhere.
On 22nd June, 2011 Indian Government supported the listing of Chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous chemical substance while Canada opposed it. India ratified the Convention on 24th May 2005. The act of becoming a Party to the Convention does not in itself obligate other Parties to ensure that there are no exports of the chemicals listed in Annex III to your country. To guarantee this, the Parties needs to provide the Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention with Importing Country Response for each of the chemicals listed in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention stating that no consent for each one.
The Convention aims to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among Parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm. It also contribute to the environmentally sound use of those hazardous chemicals, by facilitating information exchange about their characteristics, by providing for a national decision-making process on their import and export and by disseminating these decisions to Parties.
The 46 page current text of the Rotterdam Convention includes the amendments adopted by he First Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Geneva, 20 - 24 September 2004) and the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Rome, 27 – 31 October 2008). The Convention promotes the exchange of information on a very broad range of chemicals. The text of the Rotterdam Convention was adopted on 10 September 1998 by a Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The Convention entered into force on 24 February 2004.
BANI observes that the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in Annex III list of chemicals is not an invitation for Indian Government to ban their use. The purpose of the prior informed consent procedure is to allow India to make their own informed decisions on future imports of the chemical depending on their own needs, circumstances and uses of the chemical. However, if Indian Government decides not to allow any future import of chrysotile asbestos, then it must also ensure that any domestic manufacture and use of the chemical is banned.
In view of such requirements, BANI demands that Government of India should ban the domestic manufacture and use of the chrysotile asbestos along with its import after its support for listing of this lethal mineral fiber in the UN list of Hazardous Industrial Chemicals. This decision alone can take Indian Government's decision to its logical end.
Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), Mb: 9818089660,E-mail: email@example.com, Blog: banasbestosindia.blogspot.com,Web: www.toxicswatch.com
S.C. Gupta, Indian Designated National Authority - Industrial Chemicals, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers, Phone: +91 11 23383756, Telefax: +91 11 23070104, Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Rajiv Gauba, Official Contact Point, Joint Secretary (HSM Division), Ministry of Environment and Forests, Phone:+91 11 2436 0634, Telefax +91 11 2436 3577, Email:email@example.com
Dr. Manoranjan Hota, Official Contact Point,Director (HSM Division), Ministry of Environment and Forests, Phone:+91 11 2436 7663, Telefax: +91 11 2436 7663, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website of the Rotterdam Convention: http://www.pic.int/
- Press Release: Date 23. Juni 2011 World Condemns Canadian Govt's Support for Hazardous Asbestos
The outrageous behaviour of the Canadian delegation in blocking the listing of chrysotile asbestos on Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention has caused a groundswell of condemnation. Having kept quiet during the initial plenary session debate on June 21, the Canadian position was revealed yesterday when a consensus supporting the listing of chrysotile was emerging. When it became clear that negotiations might finally resolve the chrysotile impasse , Canadian delegate David Sproule threw down the gauntlet with his statement: “Canada is not in a position to support the listing of chrysotile in Annex 3. Canada is unable to join the consensus."
Canada’s betrayal of the Rotterdam Convention has earned it huge negative press coverage at home and abroad which culminated with it being named a Cancer Culprit for its destructive and hypocritical position. For the sake of a few hundred jobs at the one remaining Canadian asbestos mine, Canada has willfully and in full knowledge of the repercussions sided with the global asbestos mafia to prioritize commercial profit over public health. The industry prefers that people are not given the information that chrysotile asbestos is hazardous.
A leading trade unionist from the Philippines is calling for Canada to be “delisted” from the Rotterdam Convention. Incensed by the developments this week in Geneva, Gerard Seno from the ALU-TUCP has reason to berate Canada: 93% of the asbestos imported to the Philippines is from Canada.
ROCA delegate at COP5 Madhumita Dutta says:
“There is no doubt amongst the observers in Switzerland, that Canada had planned to let other countries do its dirty work in perpetuating the chrysotile veto. When the opposition of the small number of dissenting countries looked close to collapse, Canada emerged from the shadows. The disrespect shown by Canada for other delegations and their countries and human health and for the survival of the Rotterdam Convention is breathtaking.”
Madhumita Dutta email@example.com
Alexandra Caterbow firstname.lastname@example.org
- BANI Press Release, date 23. Juni 2011: Indian Government Paves Way for Ban on Chrysotile Asbestos, terms it Hazardous Chemical
Indian Government Paves Way for Ban on Chrysotile Asbestos, terms it Hazardous Chemical
Rotterdam Alliance, Calls Canada, Cancer Culprit, a Pariah State
Is Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister Listening?
New Delhi/Patna: Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) Condemns Quebec and Canadian Government’s anti-public health, anti-environment and anti-worker stance in the matter of list of Chrysotile Asbestos as a hazardous chemical. BANI appreciates Government of India for taking this long delayed step to join the international consensus against chrysotile asbestos. In a statement, Rotterdam Alliance states that the industry prefers that people are not given the information that chrysotile asbestos is hazardous.
Chrysotile (serpentine forms of asbestos) is being proposed to be included in the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure as an industrial chemical at the UN's fifth meeting of Rotterdam Convention on the PIC Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade in the conference. Its listing is based on the final regulatory actions to ban or severely restrict its use due to its impacts on health as notified by Australia, Chile and the European Union.
Amidst growing incessant demand for ban on trade, manufacture and use of chrysotile asbestos, Government of India’s delegation in Geneva, Switzerland announced that they had reconsidered their opposition and would support listing of chrysotile asbestos in the UN list of hazardous chemicals.
BANI, an alliance of public health researchers, human rights and labour groups welcome Government of India’s support the inclusion of Chrysotile (white) asbestos in Annex III (PIC list).
It is indeed a dramatic breakthrough that would pave the way for ending the deadlock over the inclusion of Chrysotile Asbestos in the PIC list and eventually for complete ban on the killer fibers. Approximately 50, 000 people die every year in India due to asbestos related cancer. But so far Government of India has failed to take a pro-people’s health position and a scientific stand on the import of chrysotile asbestos whose mining is technically banned in India.
The Chemical Review Committee of the Rotterdam Convention has recommended inclusion of Chrysotile asbestos twice. It is now being considered for the third time. Under the negative influence of Canada and other chrysotile asbestos producing countries, Government of India has been blocking its inclusion citing industry sponsored studies since 2004. So far it has been according priority to the profit of chrysotile asbestos companies instead of protecting environmental and occupational health.
Indian delegation also agreed to chair a small group to continue discussions with opponents to listing about their specific concerns. Canada has confirmed that it would not join any consensus on listing chrysotile asbestos.
A small drafting group was formed to draft an accompanying decision to one listing chrysotile asbestos in Annex III, to request parties and all other stakeholders to promote information exchange on measures to minimize risks and on alternative substances in order to facilitate potential agreement. When the small drafting group announced no consensus had been reached on listing chrysotile asbestos, decision was deferred at least till the conclusion of the COP5 on 24th June. BANI hopes that the delegates at COP5 will be able to persuade Canada to change its position before the meeting concludes.
Under the theme “Rotterdam COP5: PICturing Chemical Safety, PICturing Informed Decisions”, the conference is considering measures to strengthen implementation of the globe’s first line of defence for chemical safety.
The Rotterdam Convention entered into force in 2004. It built on the voluntary Prior Informed Consent, or PIC, procedure, initiated by UNEP and FAO in 1989, which gave way to the formalities of the Convention. The Rotterdam Convention was adopted in 1998 and entered into force in 2004 and makes the PIC Procedure legally binding.
In order for COP5 to be deemed successful, it is very important that chrysotile asbestos is listed on Annex III of the convention. If that happens, "Prior Informed Consent" will become mandatory before chrysotile asbestos producing countries such as Canada and Russia can export this killer mineral fiber.
Environmental groups like BANI have been making incessant demand for the listing of Chrysotile Asbestos in UN List of Hazardous Chemicals List. India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has admitted an application and registered a case with regard to the phase out of the chrysotile asbestos based industries and its listing as a hazardous chemical, a fact which has wrongly been disputed by Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Modi. The UN Meet on Hazardous Chemicals vindicates BANI’s position which has been demanding closure of chrysotile asbestos based plants in Bhojpur, Vaisahali and Muzaffarpur.
Indian states like Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and others where new chrysotile asbestos based plants are proposed will now have to abandon their plans.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), Mb: 9818089660,
E-mail: email@example.com, Blog: banasbestosindia.blogspot.com,