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Rotterdam Convention COP IV - Rome, Italy (Oct.27-31, 2008)

The Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, COP IV meetings, will be held in Rome, Italy, October 27-31, 2008.    The Convention Secretariat has made available all relevant information in the past weeks.


Chrysotile is again on the programme of the meetings, as noted on the Provisional Agenda: (UNEP/FAO/RC/COP.4/1)

Item 5:            Implementation of the Convention:

(e)       Consideration of chemicals for inclusion in Annex III of the Convention;

(i)        Chrysotile asbestos.


On July 30, 2008, we saw on the Rotterdam Convention web site, that “the IARC/WHO Report will be included in the documents available for the participants of the COP meeting”.


It is noteworthy that the only IARC/WHO workshop took place back in November 2005 in Lyon, France, and that no comparative evaluation was performed on any of the replacement fibres for chrysotile.   This was refused even though the Rotterdam Convention requested it.  What kind of report will be submitted is unclear.


As per usual, some European Union member countries and some NGO’s, such as IBAS, are going to great lengths to have chrysotile included on the RC PIC list again this year.  This is not new as they have being trying to do this since the onset of the Rotterdam Convention.   You will remember that on three separate occasions (COP meetings) this proposal was rejected.   This year, what is new are the tools they wish to use to push this through.


The Bureau requested that the Secretariat of the Convention prepare a “thought-starter paper” to set out possible approaches, within the framework of the Convention, for enabling the inclusion of chemicals in Annex III of the Convention other than by Consensus.


In other words, let’s forget the expressed desires of the Member States and change the procedures, the rules and the basic principles governing the Convention adopted by some 120 countries.  


The Convention has well defined rules to follow when any amendments to the Annexes are required:


Article 22 – Item 5 (b)  

“The Conference of Parties shall take its decisions on adoption by consensus”.


This very important item is exactly what the Bureau intends to change.   As they have been unsuccessful in getting a consensus of the inclusion of chrysotile to the PIC list, they have imaginatively proposed to change the rules so that a consensus is not necessary.  This is obviously unacceptable, unreasonable and unethical. 


It is a fact that in 2006, the Chemical Review Committee (CRC) by a vote on division, recommended that chrysotile asbestos be subject to the PIC and accordingly to list it in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention, and so what?


It is in the essence of the Convention that the Parties at the COP meetings take the final decision.  It is where Member states have the authority to make the decision.  The CRC’s role is to review the submitted material, evaluate and make recommendations on what it has observed.  That’s it.  The final decisions are to be taken by the COP and never the CRC.  


The request by the Bureau to the Secretariat puts in question the role and the power of the Member states at the COP meeting.   This proposal singles out the future authority of the Parties and intends to restrict its role to a kind of “rubber stamp”.   This is also unacceptable for any Member state.


The obvious strategy is to have chrysotile included on the PIC list, on which appear banned chemicals and substances and/or severely restricted ones in the International Trade Market.  Once this is out of the way, it will be easier to get a global world ban policy.


We draw your attention to the title of Annex II of the Rotterdam Convention:


Criteria for listing banned or severely restricted chemicals in Annex III”.  It is self-explanatory.


At this time, we feel it is important that all participants and competent authorities at the COP IV meetings be well informed of all the possible ramifications this latest trick will have on the Rotterdam Convention and on the future of chrysotile.   Once again we ask that the voice of reason be heard and understood by the Administration of the RC. 


On a last note, and contrary to what is periodically insinuated by some people and activists supporting a global ban of all asbestos fibres, including chrysotile, the future of the Rotterdam Convention does not rely on the inclusion of chrysotile in the PIC list.  This is pure fantasy.


The truth of the matter is that the future of the RC relies much more on the capacity of the authorities of the Convention to accept and to act according to the terms and rules established and adopted by the Member states; and in their capacity and determination to endorse decisions taken by the real authority:  The Conference of Parties.


August 26, 2008