Asbestos Focus at the World Social Forum 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



A full agenda of asbestos issues was discussed at the World Social Forum (WSF) on January 29, 2005 at the headquarters of the Metal Workers' Union in Porto Alegre. The Asbestos Workshop was organised by a collection of Brazilian NGOs, trade unions, government agencies and social movements, led by ABREA, the Brazilian Asbestos Victims' Group. Since 1995, ABREA, now widely regarded as the authoritative voice of Brazilian asbestos victims, has campaigned tirelessly to improve the plight of victims throughout the country. Amongst its many successes was the holding of the first WSF asbestos event in 2003; the workshop: Another World Asbestos-Free is Possible on January 23, 2003 gave a new visibility to the global movement against asbestos. In 2003, ABREA members marched through the streets of Porto Alegre behind banners calling for a global asbestos ban and justice for all asbestos victims. The day before this year's workshop there was a demonstration outside the asbestos-cement Isdralit factory; scores of ABREA members from Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Bahia, , Simes Filho, Osasco, Caxias do Sul, Porto Alegre and Rio Grande do Sul wearing tee shirts which said: “I am an asbestos victim in the World Social Forum,” on the front and “Another world without asbestos is possible,” on the back, made a dramatic impact.

During ten hours of discussion on January 29, a range of topics was covered which included asbestos developments in Italy, France, Switzerland and the U.S. and news from Brazil on the ban asbestos campaign, the rehabilitation of asbestos-contaminated areas and compensation for asbestos injuries. A record number of ABREA members travelled to Porto Alegre for this workshop; they seized the opportunity to make their opinions known about the current treatment of asbestos victims in Brazil. Even a collapsed bridge in Paraná state, which increased the bus journey from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo to Porto Alegre from 24 to 33 hours, did not dampen their enthusiasm.

 Delegates attending a workshop meeting

Speaking about the workshop, Fernanda Giannasi, a founding member of ABREA and the Coordinator of the Virtual Citizens' Network Against Asbestos in Latin America said:

“Although the asbestos workshop and demonstration at the 2003 WSF in Porto Alegre were popular and successful events, the attendance and discussion which took place this year was astonishing. The presence of so many Brazilian asbestos victims from so many different states is an undeniable sign of the mobilization of asbestos victims throughout Brazil. The asbestos-injured, clearly identifiable from their distinctive tee shirts, made history this year by taking centre-stage in the workshop presentations and discussions. The support base for our movement has also grown with many journalists, trade unionists, politicians, environmentalists and campaigners making the journey to Porto Alegre solely for the purpose of attending the asbestos workshop. Our common goals of an asbestos-free world and justice for all asbestos victims remain.”


February 9, 2005



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