Rotterdam Convention Conference of the Parties (COP6): Day 3
Showdown at the Plenary
During the morning plenary session today (May 9), the President of the Rotterdam Convention asked the Parties which opposed listing of chrysotile to confirm their final positions following intensive discussions this week in contact groups, regional groups and side meetings.
Russia, Zimbabwe, Kyrgyzstan, India and Kazakhstan confirmed their vetoes on including chrysotile in Annex III.
As we listened to a torrent of Russian asbestos industry propaganda, it became patently clear that a coup d'état had taken place. A few well-resourced stakeholders had succeeded in trashing the basic premise of a UN protocol intended to protect populations from harmful substances.
Kyrgyzstan went as far as recommending that the chrysotile issue be deleted from the agenda of future meetings. This, said the President, would not happen; at COP7, the matter will be revisited.
The Convention's impotence allows the status quo to continue; the global trade in deadly asbestos will remain unregulated and unfettered by any global agreement for the foreseeable future.
Finally, the President gave the floor to the Australian delegation. Spokesman Andrew McNee made a succinct and cogent argument (see: text of Australian Statement) that highlighted the immense economic and human cost to Australians of his country's asbestos heritage.
The impact of this intervention spread around the chamber as one country after another raised their flag to express support for Australia's position. Those that stood up to be counted included: the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, New Zealand, Cameroon, Gabon, Kenya, Costa Rica, Liberia, Nigeria, Venezuela, Sudan, Israel, Benin, Paraguay, El Salvador and Qatar.
Following a recommendation by Costa Rica, which was seconded by El Salvador, countries were requested to raise their flags if they wished to show support for the Australian motion. This "virtually unprecedented" action made clear the overwhelming desire of the majority of Convention Parties to designate chrysotile as a hazardous substance.
May 9, 2013