The Rotterdam Convention Conference: Final Day 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



The End of Innocence

Tyrannical forces have this week seized control of the Rotterdam Convention; the United Nations protocol which was born in hope has today been buried in ignominy. Russia and Zimbabwe, with the active support of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Vietnam and India – now known as the "Dirty 7" – have smashed through procedures and ignored rules to progress the financial interests of national asbestos stakeholders.

Representatives of these countries have been deaf, dumb and blind to the arguments of the Secretariat, the Chemical Review Committee and the 140+ Parties who support the listing of chrysotile.

The slick public relations campaign which has been rolled out at COP6 has attempted to contextualize the bad faith of the asbestos bullies as part of a civil society initiative to safeguard the welfare, future and rights of asbestos-producing communities. Everyday, a new magazine, book or handout has been distributed to reinforce the message under the banner: "NO CHRYSOTILE BAN."

Throughout COP6, the dissension over chrysotile has polluted discussions at plenary and contact group sessions as well as at meetings of regional groups to such an extent that calls are now being made for the United Nations Environment Programme to create a new forum within which this issue can be resolved. To this end, civil society activists will progress efforts to achieve an Asbestos Convention along the lines of instruments such as the Mercury Convention or the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

I am in no doubt that asbestos mercenaries are even now enjoying their COP6 "triumph." Such celebrations are, however, premature – their behaviour has brought shame on their governments at the highest level. International agencies and trading partners of the Dirty 7 will need to reconsider relationships and future projects in light of what has been revealed in Geneva. Prioritizing financial interests over human life is an anathema to all civilized societies and to every religion.

Discussions which have taken place in Geneva reveal a growing resolve among developing countries to take unilateral action to deal with the asbestos hazard. To ensure that the future of our planet is one which is asbestos-free requires that each government enacts legislation prohibiting the production, use and sale of asbestos.

May 10, 2013



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