Resolution: Asbestos Seminar, European Social Forum
The international epidemic of ill-health and death caused by exposure to asbestos has been raging for decades. In view of the rising number of asbestos victims, the delegates to the Asbestos Seminar of the European Social Forum (ESF) held in London, England on October 16, 2004 make the following recommendations to the ESF, the World Social Forum,1 the United Nations and all its intergovernmental bodies, including the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), and to the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Governments of Member States of the European Union:
1. Asbestos mining, use and recycling should be banned worldwide; a global plan of action for safe removal and disposal of asbestos must be devised and implemented. When national bans are adopted, a policy of just transition for affected workers and communities should be the norm.
2. Asbestos victims in all countries should receive the most effective medical treatment, practical assistance, moral support and adequate financial compensation. The concept of asbestos victim should be set within a judicial and social framework as specified by the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations.
3. Companies and countries which have profited from the global trade in asbestos should be held accountable to injured individuals and polluted communities; under the principle of the polluter pays, former and current asbestos stakeholders must compensate victims, decontaminate sites and fund research into medical treatment.
4. Funding is urgently needed for the development and implementation of new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to asbestos-related diseases; international agencies have a role to play in mobilizing financial resources and in coordinating global research efforts.
5. Labelling of asbestos products in national infrastructures should be mandatory.
6. Within the European Union (EU), the scientific community, medical specialists, asbestos victims and groups, trade unions and activists must make 2005-2006 the year for action; demands including the harmonization of compensation procedures and treatment protocols, the establishment of national mesothelioma registers and at-risk registers for exposed person must be put forward.
7. The application by multinational companies of double standards in the treatment of workers, consumers and the public in developed and developing countries must be exposed and terminated. In many developing countries, multinationals are selling off asbestos interests to ruthless and powerful local entrepreneurs.
8. The ILO and WHO need to call for a global asbestos ban and work with their members towards this goal.
9. Commitments to monitor the burden of asbestos-related diseases, update epidemiology and conduct medical surveillance of exposed populations are needed.
10. As the momentum for a global asbestos ban grows, asbestos profiteers from Canada, India and Brazil are spending millions of dollars on media campaigns to promote the benefits of chrysotile (white asbestos).2 To counter the industry's lies, a sustained and high-profile international exercise to increase consumer and public awareness of the hazards of asbestos is needed.
1 The World Social Forum will be held in Brazil in January, 2005.
2 In October, 2004, the new mouthpiece of the Brazilian asbestos industry, the Chrysotile Institute, spent US$1.3 million on promoting the benefits of asbestos in national newspapers; this follows a similar media onslaught by asbestos cement manufacturers in Indian newspapers and compliments the continuing disinformation campaign spearheaded by the Chrysotile Institute (Canada), formerly the Asbestos Institute.