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Media Release: For immediate use March 13, 2008
Environmental, women's, labour and health groups around the world call for action to save Rotterdam Convention
UN Environmental Convention
is being killed by political and industry interference, say groups
2008 is the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Rotterdam Convention, whose purpose is to protect human health and the environment by controlling international trade in hazardous chemicals and pesticides.
But instead of celebrating, a number of environmental, labour and health groups are sounding the alarm.
Industry interference and political sabotage by a handful of countries, led by Canada, are strangling the Rotterdam Convention, say the groups from Asia, Africa, South and North America, and Europe.
Because of this interference, no new listing of a hazardous product under the Convention has been possible for the past four years and the groups are concerned that progress at meetings planned for this year will likewise be blocked.
Under the Convention, an expert body, called the Chemical Review Committee, recommends whether a hazardous product has met the criteria of the Convention and should be placed on a special list which requires countries to obtain Prior Informed Consent before they can export the product to another country.
The Convention, which has been ratified by 120 countries, came into effect in February 2004.
At its last meeting in 2006, over one hundred countries approved the recommendation made by the Chemical Review Committee that chrysotile asbestos be listed for Prior Informed Consent. But Canada, together with Kyrgyzstan, India, Iran, Peru and Ukraine, simply refused to let the Convention’s process work and blocked action on the recommendation.
They were supported by Zimbabwe, Russia and Indonesia, who have not ratified the Convention.
Canada argued that unless every single country agrees, no action should be taken to implement the Convention. “This is a death sentence for the Convention,” said Joan Kuyek of Mining Watch Canada.
The World Health Organization and the International Labour Organizations, among others, have called for chrysotile asbestos to be banned. Most industrialized countries have banned it. Asbestos companies are therefore aggressively targeting developing countries and the countries of Eastern Europe for expanded sales.
“If chrysotile asbestos, a known deadly carcinogen, which fully met all the requirements of the Convention can be prevented from being listed, then the Convention is in grave peril,” said Laurie Kazan-Allen of the Ban Asbestos International Secretariat.
“Industry interference is killing the Convention,” said Kathleen Ruff of RightOnCanada. “Countries allied to the asbestos industry are putting the profits of the industry ahead of the lives of people.”
“Industry is giving false information on chrysotile asbestos in the Eastern European and Central Asian countries, pretending that their local asbestos does not have the proven negative health effects. We have bought a few samples of asbestos on local markets, and the product is exactly the same as the asbestos which has been banned in most of the industrialized nations. We are very worried about the health of labourers in the building sector, and especially for children, as the asbestos is being used in public buildings like daycare centers and schools”, says Sascha Gabizon, executive director of Women in Europe for a Common Future.
“The Indian government even included a representative of the asbestos industry in its delegation,” said Madhumita Dutta of The Other Media. “And a study on asbestos presently being carried out by the Indian government was, in fact, funded by the asbestos industry.”
“At the March 10-13 meeting of the Convention’s Chemical Review Committee, taking place in Geneva right now, sixteen representatives from the chemical industry and, in particular, lobbyists for the asbestos industry will be attending as official observers,” noted Laurie Kazan-Allen. “Given the history of industry interference, this is extremely disturbing.”
We are calling for a stop to industry interference in a Convention meant to protect health and the environment, say the groups.
We are, in particular, challenging Canada, Kyrgyzstan, India, Kazakhstan, Iran, Peru and Ukraine, as well as Russia, Zimbabwe and Indonesia (who have not signed the Convention) to stop their irresponsible conduct.
Our message to them is – Stop the sabotage. Let the Convention do its job of protecting lives.
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