Commemorating The Global Asbestos Congress 2000
From September 17-20, 2000, the landmark Global Asbestos Congress (GAC 2000) took place in Osasco, Brazil. This was a truly revolutionary event which, for the first time, brought together hundreds of asbestos victims, campaigners, trade unionists, and medical and scientific experts from around the world.1 This week, some of those who took part in this event reflected on the significance of GAC 2000:
- Eliezer João de Souza, President of Brazilian Association of the Asbestos-Exposed (ABREA), Brazil
The GAC 2000 in Osasco brought us a new dimension in the struggle to ban asbestos. It was no longer a fight for national or local asbestos bans but a planetary struggle uniting citizens, activists, victims, politicians, unionists, students and common people eager to eliminate the greatest industrial killer of all time. We left the conference stronger and much more confident in our skill to transform an unfair global situation . Definitely, Osasco's meeting marked a sea change. We are sure that we still have a lot to do on this subject but we know that we can do it. Congratulations to all people that made this real and especially IBAS who believed in this project and remained true to its purpose.
- Sugio Furuya, General Secretary of Ban Asbestos Japan and Co-Coordinator of Asian Ban Asbestos Network, Japan
Osasco was the actuator of the global networking of grass-roots ban asbestos movements.. Indeed for Ban Asbestos Network Japan (BANJAN), it opened a window to the world. We are very proud that we played host to the second global asbestos congress in Tokyo and that we have now the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (A-BAN). Personally, Osasco was the first time for me to make a presentation in English.
- Fiona Murie, Director Occuaptional Health and Safety, Construction Coordinator, Building and Woodworkers International (BWI), Switzerland
For the BWI, Osasco provided the first opportunity to bring together construction and building materials trade unions from Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America to discuss the strategy for elimination of asbestos hazards with academics, NGOs and victims' support groups from around the world. The BWI had already adopted a global ban asbestos policy back in 1989, but Osasco was the launch pad for the Global Ban Asbestos Campaign of the Building and Woodworkers International. The BWI remains an active force in national, regional and international ban asbestos networks.
- Rory O'Neill, editor of Hazards Magazine and Founding Member of Hazards Campaign, UK
Osasco marked the beginning of the end for asbestos. We'd had the right arguments for decades; now we had the network and coordination to translate those arguments into real on-the-ground bans. Instead of a series of skirmishes with the richly resourced global asbestos lobbying machine, we had thanks to the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat a mechanism uniting campaigns in the developing and developed world to fight far more effectively for an end to death by asbestos.
- Dr. Richard A. Lemen, Assistant Surgeon General, U.S. (ret.), USA
In 2000 I counted around 15 countries that had banned asbestos, ten years later it is up to at least 52. The GAC 2000 taught us that time for action is now, and as a result the global ban movement increased over 300 percent to include more countries in just the last 10 years than it had taken the previous 100 years to accomplish. GAC 2000 was a global call for action and that action call has been heard resulting in more significant steps to ban asbestos globally than ever before.
- Barry Castleman, Author of Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, USA
The gathering in Osasco launched an extraordinary effort in citizen action to confront the global asbestos industry. In the decade since, that global social movement has been a shining example of what can be accomplished by individuals and non-governmental organizations to raise awareness and move governments and international bodies to take action on a mortal threat to people around the world. Asbestos industry gatherings (many in luxurious resorts) to thwart regulation and stifle critics were a regular occurrence, but here at last there was a counter force, as activists from 32 countries met to develop personal relationships and plans to confront the problems effectively. It has been a pleasure to work with the wonderful and creative people around the world who have become part of this network since Osasco.
There is no doubt whatsoever that what took place in Osasco set in motion much of what has since transpired. The momentum achieved by the initiatives discussed in Brazil and implemented thereafter have impacted on positions adopted by international agencies, labor federations and consumer groups. In the years since GAC 2000, the power of campaigning groups to influence national and global asbestos debates has become manifest. Working together, the ban asbestos network has countered the toxic propaganda spread by the asbestos pushers and exposed the ruthless machinations to which industry will go to protect asbestos markets.
As we mark the 10th anniversary of this landmark meeting it is appropriate to take a few moments to reflect on just how much has changed. It is also appropriate to commemorate the legacy of so many of the Brazilian workers whose involvement in the planning of the GAC 2000 was crucial. People like Ze da Capa and Aldo Vincentin, founding members of ABREA, who devoted their time, skills and energy to making GAC 2000 such a success; these wonderful men, like many others, have since lost their lives to asbestos diseases. The commitment of the ban asbestos network has not wavered and our shared objectives remain constant - securing a global asbestos ban and justice for all asbestos victims. The struggle continues or, as they say in Brazil, la luta continua.
September 17, 2010