Rotterdam Convention 2013 Summary
Over the past couple of weeks I have written about the scandal that was the Rotterdam Convention 2013 and the disturbing trend of countries advocating for the asbestos industry. My sister, Laurie Kazan-Allen, coordinator of the International Asbestos Secretariat was awarded observer status at this 6th Conference of the Parties and witnessed firsthand the developments of this important global meeting. I thank her for allowing me to use her frontline diary as the foundation for the summary report which follows.
Monday, May 6, 2013: Arrival / Registration/ Introductions
With the Convention covering a broad list of hazardous chemicals, the observers with a primary focus on the chrysotile asbestos issue included: Dr. Barry Castleman (U.S.), Kathleen Ruff (Canada), Laurie Kazan-Allen and Bill Lawrence (Britain), Alessandro Pugno (Italy), Sugio Furuya (Japan), and Fernanda Giannasi (Brazil).
Tuesday, May 7, 2013:
Delegations from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan Zimbabwe, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam and India stated their intention to block the listing of chrysotile asbestos, earning the title “Dirty 7”. It was apparent that this was a political campaign spearheaded by Russia.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013:
A letter from an Italian asbestos victim’s group that was signed by 28 asbestos victims’ support groups in 15 countries on five continents was presented. Later in the day several speakers described the humanitarian disasters caused by asbestos in their countries. Russian asbestos lobbyist Andrei Kholzakov made several attempts to intervene in the humanitarian session. At one point he stood up and waved a piece of asbestos propaganda headlined “People for Chrysotile.”
Thursday May 9, 2013:
With the rules of the Rotterdam Convention requiring a global unanimous consensus, in an atmosphere of frustration it was determined that the issue of adding chrysotile asbestos to the list of hazardous chemicals would be put on the agenda for the next Conference.
Friday May 10, 2013:
Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program expressed the following comment:
“It’s very easy to say we’ve failed. But the fact of the matter is that asbestos essentially has no future… Do you really believe that after everything that has been discussed here [industry] will invest in this material in the future? No, and in that sense the convention has a direct and indirect value in signaling what are the substances that are not likely to be in the global marketplace in the near or middle term.”
To read the abridged positions and views expressed by delegates, scroll down to the appendix here.