Welcome to Geneva! 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



As asbestos lobbyists from Russia, India, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Canada, Vietnam and Brazil arrive in Switzerland this week,1 they will be met by posters prominently displayed on the sides of trams and buses with stark public health warnings about the deadly asbestos hazard! Considering that the purpose of their visit to Geneva is to prevent delegates to next week’s meeting of the UN’s Rotterdam Convention from designating chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance, this powerful advertising campaign will almost certainly not be the greeting they had hoped for.2 The series of posters, which is sponsored by the IndustriAll Global Union and its affiliates The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union and The Construction, Forestry Mining and Energy Union,3 will be circulating through the city center from May 6-19, 2015. The striking images portrayed are accompanied by different messages in French [with literal translations supplied by the author below]:


Asbestos: all products still deadly – 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at work – For the global ban of all asbestos.



Stop all trade in deadly asbestos – 2 million tonnes of asbestos are used every year – For the global ban of all asbestos.



Asbestos = Death – Every five minutes someone dies from asbestos exposure – For the global ban on all asbestos.

Another omen which will no doubt provide consternation to the industry spin doctors is the statement made today (May 6, 2015) by Mr. Baskut Tuncak (UN Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes) to delegates at the joint meeting of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. Mr. Tuncak is “deeply troubled” by the behaviour of vested interests who “continue to obstruct the listing of asbestos and paraquat under the Rotterdam Convention…” The Rapporteur told delegates that: “The right to access information is a right in and of itself and one of the rights upon which free and democratic societies depend.” (See: full text of statement).

With the vast amount of money at their disposal – one dares not calculate the travel and accommodation costs for bringing 20+ industry representatives from all over the world to Geneva – the asbestos industry may well have expected to dominate the agenda. That they have been wrong-footed so early on is a good sign. Wait until they see the other surprises lined up for them!

May 6, 2015


1  Ruff K. Asbestos industry lobbyists attending May 2015 Rotterdam Convention Conference. May 2, 2015

2 The discussions on whether or not to list chrysotile on Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention will take place from May 12 to 14, 2015. For more background, see: Ruff K. Exposé of the Sabotage of the Rotterdam Convention. May 5, 2015.
Kazan-Allen L. The Rotterdam Convention 2013! April 18, 2013.

3 IndustriALL. Global campaign against asbestos targets UN. May 6, 2015.



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