Rotterdam Convention 2011 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



In June 2011, the 5th Conference of the Parties (COP5) to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (Rotterdam Convention) will be held in Geneva, Switzerland. The objective of the Rotterdam Convention, a United Nations initiative, “is 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.” To this end, COP5 will consider the inclusion in Annex III of chrysotile asbestos, endosulfan, alachlor and aldicarb under agenda item 5c during the meeting scheduled for June 20-24, 2011.1 While inclusion in Annex III does not equate to a prohibition of trade, it does impose requirements on exporting nations to provide basic information to customers detailing the human and environmental hazards posed by use.

Multiple attempts to include chrysotile asbestos on the prior informed consent list have had disastrous results in the past which lead some observers to predict the demise of the Convention.2 Carl Smith, Vice President of the Foundation for Advancement in Science and Education, put it well when he remarked on the eve of COP 3 (2006): “At the first Conference of the Parties (COP1/ 2004)…chrysotile asbestos loomed like an unwelcome guest at an otherwise happy occasion…” Unfortunately, the stalemate Smith referred to on chrysotile – a substance repeatedly found by the Convention's technical advisors to qualify for inclusion in Annex III – remains. As all changes to the Convention must be by unanimous agreement a handful of stakeholder governments, led by Canada, have succeeded in preventing any action on chrysotile being taken.

Following intense but finally fruitless discussions on chrysotile at COP 4 (2008), it was decided to defer any decision and revisit the subject at COP5. There is little likelihood. however, that things will be different this time around as Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Quebec's Premier Jean Charest continue to support the asbestos industry and oppose any action under the Rotterdam Convention. Even as both politicans are besieged by correspondence from around the world decrying proposals for the Quebec Government to underwrite a new asbestos mine,3 Canadian political analysts see little sign of an asbestos U-turn from Ottawa or Quebec.

January 12, 2011



2 Kazan-Allen L. End of the Road for the Rotterdam Convention. October 31,2008.
and Chrysotile Asbestos: Hazardous to Humans, Deadly to the Rotterdam Convention
For information on what happened last time around, at COP4, see:

3 Kazan-Allen L. Stop the Mine! January 12, 2011.



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