Five things … about the Rotterdam Convention
Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA is going to be talking a lot about the Rotterdam Convention in the lead up to this year’s meeting in April 2017. So what is the Rotterdam Convention, and why is it so important in the global fight against asbestos? Our Executive Officer, Kate Lee, takes us through the top five things to know in the lead up to Rotterdam 2017.
- The Rotterdam Convention is an agreement between 157 countries around the world to regulate dangerous chemicals and pesticides in order to protect people and the environment including asbestos.
- There are 47 chemicals listed under the Convention. All countries that have signed the Convention must agree before new chemicals are added to the list. When a chemical is listed, it means that it cannot be exported to a country without approval from that country’s government. Some countries go further, and ban the chemicals listed under the Convention.
- Over the past ten years, activists and governments around the world, including Australia’s, have been campaigning to have chrysotile asbestos added to this list. For more than ten years the United Nations bodies responsible for the convention (UNEP and FAO) have recommended chrysotile be listed. Every year, about 150 countries agree to add chrysotile asbestos to the list, but they are blocked by 4-7 countries. The main countries blocking the listing are Russia, Kazakhstan, India, Kyrgyzstan and Zimbabwe. These countries include the biggest exporters of chrysotile in the world.
- This year, a group of 12 African countries have worked together to propose a change to the voting system at Rotterdam. These countries are fed up with the small number of countries continually blocking the listing of chemicals without any good reason. Their change would mean that even if all countries do not agree, a chemical could be listed once 75% of countries agree. This would stop one or more countries from blocking the listing of chemicals when all the other countries agree. The change would make the voting system consistent with other conventions such as the Stockholm and Basel Conventions, which deal with pollutants and waste disposal of dangerous products.
- Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA is working with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), global unions and non-government organisations around the world to build momentum within the 157 countries to support the African-led change.