The appearance of asbestos industry lobbyists at a meeting organised by UN agencies and funded by the European Commission (EC) has been condemned as ‘farcical’ and a ‘junket’ by unions.
Global building unions federation BWI said the event in Geneva on 30-31 March, ahead of a Rotterdam Convention conference in May, was hosted by the convention’s secretariat, the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) and funded by the EC. Its purpose was to exchange information on chrysotile or ‘white’ asbestos.
The addition of this form of asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention’s list of exported substances for which ‘prior informed consent’ must be obtained has been repeatedly blocked by governments supporting the asbestos lobby. Attendees at the pre-meeting in Geneva included representatives of asbestos groups from countries including India, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.
According to BWI: “This move by the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat is politically naïve, to say the least. Presumably they seek to convince these representatives not to block listing of chrysotile ahead of the 7th Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention in Geneva this May.” The union body added: “Once again, the voice of the genuine, representative, trade union movement and of the victims of asbestos will be missing from the conversation. The plight of those who have paid with their lives for the profits of this deadly industry seems to be of little interest to the Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention.”
BWI has prepared a model letter it wants unions worldwide to send to their national governments. The letter says national government representatives attending the May Conference of the Parties should call for chrysotile asbestos to be included under the Rotterdam Convention’s prior informed consent disclosure requirements.