Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI). Asbestos Free India campaign of BANI is inspired by trade union movement and right to health campaign. BANI has been working since 2000. It works with peoples movements, doctors, researchers and activists besides trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Internal dispatches from UN meeting show how Canada derailed asbestos listing

Internal dispatches from UN meeting show how Canada derailed asbestos listing

Ever wonder how Canada goes from a silent observer at a United Nations meeting to lone opponent to label chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous material under the UN’s Rotterdam Convention? Well, look no further.

After Postmedia broke the news last June that Canada derailed international efforts to list chrysotile asbestos on Annex III of the convention just as a consensus was emerging (after being accused of letting other countries to do its “dirty work”), I wanted to get my hands on the real-time updates from the plenary floor in Geneva from the head of the Canadian delegation, DFAIT’s David Sproule. The partly redacted dispatches, released under access to information, are in.

Here’s the run-down on how Canada got the job done to keep chrysotile asbestos (mined in Quebec and exported to India and other developing countries) off Annex III. Such a listing requires “Prior Informed Consent” before countries can export it, meaning importing countries are informed of the hazards and can refuse it if they believe they can’t handle it safety (sounds like Canada’s safe use policy, no? Health Canada bureaucrats think so.) Consensus is needed for any listing, so any one country party to the convention can stymie a listing.

It sure looks like Canada stayed quiet as long as it could.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 “Day 2 Update”

- Sproule informs DFAIT colleagues that a handful of parties to the convention “indicated that they cannot support listing (Kazakstan, Sudan, India, Kyrgystan, Ukraine, Vietnam) citing a view that the danger of the substance has not been established and the safety of alternatives has not been investigated.” Sproule adds that these countries were countered by 19 others speaking in favour of listing, including Australia and the European Union. Given these opposing positions, a contact group will likely be created to see if consensus can be achieved, Sproule writes.

My translation: looks like things are unfolding according to plan (or at least Plan A).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 6:42 AM “URGENT”

- Sproule tells colleagues in Ottawa that “India has changed its position and will support the listing of chrysotile. India is Canada’s largest customer of chrysotile. Up until this point, it appeared that India was the strongest opponent of listing. This leaves Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Ukraine and Vietnam opposing the listing. A small group has been formed that is pressuring these parties to change their position as well.” (Three redacted lines follow.)

My translation: Uh oh, India has flipped, but Canada still has cover with a few countries still opposed to the listing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 10:46 AM “URGENT”

- Sproule reports that Canada is in the contact group to see if a consensus can emerge to list chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous material.

My translation: Canada is keeping a close eye to make sure there’s no consensus.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 10:58 AM “URGENT: Canada has opposed listing”

-Sproule breaks the news (and Canada’s silence) to Ottawa colleagues after “Ukrainian spokesperson for the group changed his position.”

My translation: Canada has to break silence when rest of countries follow India’s lead (Plan B).

Thursday, June 23, 2011 “Day 4 Report”

- “This afternoon features a rough and tumble plenary” at which Canada confirmed “our opposition to listing.” Canada also reminded the plenary “about the importance of respecting differences of opinion and the results (consensus rules); and whether delegations like it or not, the convention gives the Convention of the Parties and not the Chemical Review the final authority on listing.” (Context: the convention’s expert scientific committee had recommended that chrysotile asbestos, a known carcinogen already banned in many developed countries, be placed on Annex III based on the best available science.)

My translation: Canada is getting tough ride, but pushes back, saying Canada is not beholden to scientific advice of the convention’s experts.

So, there you have it. See you at the next meeting of the Conference of Parties. In the meantime, enjoy the talking points on the safe use of asbestos.

Sarah Schmidt, February 22, 2012.

1 comment:

EcornerLearning said...

It's quite frustrating that there are those who allow this kind of acts which might compromise the safety of their community and other societies.

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