End of the Road for the Rotterdam Convention 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



Despite the negotiations and painstaking efforts taken by the Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention to resolve the impasse on listing chrysotile on Annex III, the end result was, given the greed and political pressure exerted by asbestos stakeholders, never in doubt. On Friday morning (October 31) news was released that the sub-committee, the “Friends of the President,” tasked with finding a way around this problem had failed. A spokesperson for the negotiators reported that although the science on the chrysotile hazard had been confirmed, a political log-jam prevented the parties from reaching consensus, without which nothing could be done.

In the end, the dedicated campaigners and national representatives who attended the seemingly endless meetings and discussions in Rome could not breathe life back into the moribund multilateral United Nations treaty (see: Rotterdam Convention Dossier). Short of a miraculous resurrection, the Rotterdam Convention is now dead. It is sad but somehow fitting that this news comes on Halloween, a night when traditionally goblins and witches are on the prowl. Unfortunately the deadly work of the asbestos spectre is not restricted to one night a year. The failure of the Rotterdam Convention to impose right-to-know regulations on the global trade in chrysotile will be paid for by millions of human beings. The deadly spell cast by the asbestos hazard is ever-present – by denying countries the information needed to make informed decisions, chrysotile imports will continue to pollute the lungs and environments of the world's most vulnerable populations. Clement Godbout from the (Canadian) Chrysotile Institute and Brigadier Sethi, representing Indian asbestos stakeholders, will return from their sojourn in Rome very pleased at the outcome of COP4. For the rest of us it is a very sad day.


October 31, 2008



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