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WECF at the Chemical Convention COPs in Geneva

Through out May WECF participated in the COPs of Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions and the Extraordinary COP, which took place in Geneva

06.06.2013 |Alexandra Caterbow

This year the Parties of the three Chemical Conventions decided to conduct all Conferences of the Parties back to back, and framed in an Extraordinary COP on synergies of the Conventions.

WECF took part as observer in the ExCOP and in the Stockholm and Rotterdam Convention. One of the main focuses was asbestos, which was proposed for listing under the Rotterdam Convention for the fourth time. WECF was also engaged in the work on the listing of HBCD.

The main results of the meetings

Stockholm Convention:
  • HBCD, the third most commonly-used flame retardant, was listed in the Stockholm Convention for global elimination, with a five year exemption for use in building materials. The EU even proposed an exemption for use in building materials and recycling until 2024, but after negotiations the exemption could be narrowed down to only 5 years, and the recycling option was dropped, too. More information can be found here
  • Approval of the report on non-chemical alternatives to endosulfan.
Rotterdam Convention:
  • Azinphos methyl (pesticide), PentaBDE (flame retardant), OctaBDE (flame retardant), and PFOS (industrial chemical) were listed to the Rotterdam Convention.
  • Paraquat, a highly hazardous pesticide was not listed under Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention due to the blockage of Guatemala and India. 
  • Chrysotile Asbestos was for the forth time not listed to Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention, because India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zimbabwe blocked its listing. 
Demonstration of asbestos victims
On Thursday, 7th of May 2013, asbestos victims groups representing thousands of victims and their relatives from around the world were demonstrating in front of the UN building in Geneva. They were calling the delegates of the Conference of the Parties of the Rotterdam Convention to include chrysotile asbestos into Annex III of the Convention, which would lead to an prior informed consent for importing countries.
More than 100.000 people die every year because of asbestos related diseases according to WHO and ILO.

You can read the statement of the asbestos victims groups here

WECF was co-coordinator of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance - ROCA
ROCA presented a position paper to the delegates of the Rotterdam Convention (download here) and had the chance to display materials and publications of ROCA members at a booth in the lobby of the convention center. With financial support from the German Ministry of Environment ROCA was able to present at the COP of the Rotterdam Convention with more than 10 delegates from all UN regions. The ROCA delegates were actively engaged in the working groups of the COP, plenary statements, side event and other events and activities connected to the COP.

ROCA Side event on asbestos
Reflecting the high degree of interest regarding chrysotile asbestos generated by the obstructive behaviour of asbestos vested interests, there was a very good turn out in the Conference Hall. Alongside dozens of official delegates from Iran, Bahrain, Malaysia, Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, were representatives of Russian and Brazilian trade unions aligned with the asbestos industry. International media also reported on it, such as Il Monferrato in Italy.

The panel of speakers consisted of campaigner Sugio Furuya from the Japan Occupational Health and Safety Centre, Brazilian Labor Inspector Fernanda Giannasi, filmmaker and Italian researcher Alessandro Pugno and activists Vladimir Kototenko and Elina Doszhanova from Kyrgyzstan and Kazaksthan respectively.

The side event was organized by the Rotterdam Convention Alliance and was facilitated by WECF. WECFs Executive Director Sascha Gabizon chaired the session, a taxing job not made any easier by the boo-rish behaviour of Russian observer Andrey Kholzakov who tried to interrupt the proceedings on more than one occasion.

The speakers were in agreement regarding the crucial importance of listing chrysotile asbestos on Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention; they called on delegates to make every effort to resolve the current impasse over chrysotile in order to protect human health.

Read the full report here

Further information


Earth Negotiations Bulletin Report

Meeting documents

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

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