24 April 2017

The Rotterdam Convention Official contact point (OCP)
The Acting Director General
Mr Kgabo Mahoai
Department of International Relations and Cooperation

Noting that:

  1. The Rotterdam Convention was specifically created to address the double standard whereby hazardous chemicals and pesticides that are banned or severely restricted in industrialized countries are increasingly being shipped to developing countries and countries with economies in transition, thus populations in the global South are immorally and unjustly exposed to harmful chemicals and pesticides. The Rotterdam Convention seeks to stop this double standard by empowering countries with the right to Prior Informed Consent.
  2. For more than a decade the asbestos industry has blocked the wishes of the rest of the world and refused to allow chrysotile asbestos to be put on the Rotterdam Convention’s list of hazardous substances.
  3. Chrysotile asbestos meets all the Convention’s criteria for listing. Thirty-two scientists from every region of the world, who make up the Convention’s expert scientific committee, have repeatedly recommended that chrysotile asbestos be put on the Convention’s list of hazardous substances.
  4. Listing chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance affords people in developing countries the right to Prior Informed Consent under the Convention. This right ensures that people must be warned of the hazards of asbestos and provides access to social justice.
  5. The asbestos industry is deliberately misleading the public. Because the parties of the Rotterdam Convention have not succeeded in a listing chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance, industry representatives are publicly misrepresenting the facts by stating that chrysotile is not dangerous for human health.
  6. Hope to break the deadlock on listing chrysotile asbestos has come from a meeting of African countries in 2016, 12 of 14 countries at the meeting, Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Zambia have proposed an amendment to the Convention to allow decisions to list hazardous substances to be taken by a 75% majority vote if consensus proves impossible. Zimbabwe opposed the motion and South Africa abstained.
  7. The amendment can be approved by a 75% vote at COP8. If the amendment is not approved, the entire Convention is a risk, as it will be proven that a tiny but powerful interest group can render the rights it contains null and void. The asbestos industry will be able to continue preventing access to rights in the Convention, sending a clear message that the right of Prior Informed Consent is not a right at all, but is only available if the hazardous industry in question permits it.
  8. South Africa lack of support for the proposal is confounding given that South Africa has legislation in place to prohibit the use, processing or manufacturing, of any asbestos or asbestos-containing product, effectively banning asbestos in 2008. This was achieved after more than two decades; from campaign efforts by trade unions and public health interest groups in 1980s and through an exemplary and inclusive multi stakeholder process from 1994 in a democratic South Africa.   The current legislation is consistent with Section 24 of the South African Bill of Rights which emphasises the right to an environment that is not harmful to health or wellbeing, and which protects the environment for the benefit of present and future generations through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution. It shows the South African’s governments concern for public health interest triumphed over substantial capital interest. In doing so, South Africa also made a huge contribution worldwide to public health caused by asbestos with its ban. South Africa once produced 100% amosite and 97% crocidolite asbestos, and was the 5th largest producer of chrysolite asbestos.

We the undersigned organisations, are of the opinion that the proposed amendment from the twelve African countries represents the only possibility of ending the ability of the asbestos industry, or other hazardous industries, to block the rights in the Convention from becoming reality.
All Parties to the Convention have a legal and moral obligation to allow the right to Prior Informed Consent contained in the Convention. We cannot accept a neutral position on this amendment by South Africa, which will be interpreted as withholding the right of Prior Informed Consent to be extended to all citizens of the Global South.
We therefore strongly urge the South African government to uphold your national position on asbestos at the global level by promoting and supporting the proposed amendment to the Rotterdam Convention to list hazardous substances to be taken by a 75% majority vote as a last resort.


Signed on behalf of their organisations:

  1. Irvin Jim, General Secretary, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa       
  2. Bobby Peek, Director, Groundwork, South Africa
  3. William Kerfoot, Legal Resources Centre, South Africa
  4. Moses Cloete, Deputy Director, Bench Marks Foundation, South Africa
  5. Brian Ashley, Director, Alternative Information & Development Centre   South Africa
  6. John Capel, Bench Marks Foundation, South Africa
  7. Melissa Fourie, Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Rights, South Africa
  8. Michelle Mzamo, People's Health Movement South Africa           
  9. Michael Koen, Access to Justice Africa, South Africa
  10. Sasha Stevenson, Attorney, SECTION27, South Africa
  11. Dr Jim te Water Naude, Chair, South African Mesothelioma Interest Group Trust, South Africa
  12. Dr. Sydney Carstens, Department of Global Health, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
  13. Anne Mayher, Coordinator, International Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa, South Africa
  14. Brian Gibson, Chairman, Kgalagadi Relief Trust, South Africa
  15. Samantha Hargreaves, Director, WoMin African Gender and Extractives Alliance, South Africa
  16. Colin Marks, Real Time Solutions, South Africa
  17. Prof Mohamed F Jeebhay, Director, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, South Africa
  18. Dr Renee Usdin, South African Society of Integrative Doctors, South Africa
  19. Ms Jaamia Galant, Claremont Main Road Mosque, South Africa
  20. Mr Sechaba, Lephuphalethu Foundation, South Africa
  21. Francesca de Gasparis, Executive Director, Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI), South Africa
  22. Garikanai Shoko, Building and Wood Workers International, South Africa
  23. Warren Manning, Izwe, Republic of South Africa
  24. Dr Muzimkhulu Zungu, School of Health Systems and Public Health, University of Pretoria, South Africa
  25. Prof Usuf Chikte, Executive Head, Department of Global Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, South Africa
  26. Dr Anne Raynal Hon Senior Lecturer in Occupational Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  27. Carin Bosman, CBSS, South Africa
  28. Andrew Dettmer, National President, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Australia
  29. Kate Lee, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, Australia
  30. Peter Tighe, CEO, Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, Australia
  31. Asbestos Disease Support Society ADSS, CEO, Australia
  32. Rory O'Neill, Editor Hazards magazine, Britain
  33. Jamie Kneen, Co-Manager, MiningWatch Canada
  34. Kathleen Ruff, Founder & Co-Coordinator, Rotterdam Convention Alliance (ROCA), Canada
  35. Larry Stoffman  Director Occupational Health and Safety, United Food and Commercial Workers British Columbia, Canada
  36. Dr. James Brophy, Board member, Windsor on Watch, Canada
  37. Larry Stoffman, Canadian Labour Congress Representative, Canadian Labour Congress    
  38. Baba Aye, Health & Social Policy Officer, Public Services International, France
  39. Dr. Evelyn Glensk, Association of Asbestos Victims, Bundesverband der Asbestose Selbsthilfegruppen, Germany
  40. Jagdish Patel, Director, Peoples Training & Research Centre, India
  41. Mohit, Program Coordinator, Environics Trust, India
  42. Pralhad Malvadkar, Coordinator, OHSC (Occupational Health & Safety Centre), India
  43. Wiranta Ginting, Executive Director, Local Initiative for Occupational Health and Safety Network Indonesia
  44. D Hodgkin, Managing director, Humanitarian Benchmark Consulting, Indonesia
  45. Gianni Alioti, Head of EH&S office, FIM-CISL, Italy
  46. Sugio Furuya, Coordinator, Asian Ban Asbestos Network (A-BAN), Japan
  47. Sugio Furuya, Secretary General, Ban Asbestos Network Japan (BANJAN)
  48. Tolentino, Regional Representative, BWI Asia Pacific, Malaysia
  49. Ram Charitra Sah, Executive Director, Center for Public Health and Environmental Development (CEPHED), Nepal
  50. Gbenga Komolafe, Federation of Informal Workers' Organizations of Nigeria (FIWON), Nigeria
  51. Charity Omata, National Union of civil engineering construction furniture & woodworkers, Nigeria
  52. Alan Tanjusay, Policy Advocacy Officer, Associated Labor Unions-TUCP, Philippines
  53. Nadia De Leon, Advocacy Officer, Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development – IOHSAD, Philippines
  54. Chuttoo Reeaz, President, Confederation des travailleurs des secteur prive et publique, Republic of Mauritius
  55. Jane Ragoo, General Secretary, Federation of private support services unions, Republic of Mauritius
  56. Wander Mkhonza, Secretary General, ATUSWA, Swaziland
  57. Valter Sanches, General Secretary, IndustriALL Global Union, Switzerland
  58. Laurie Kazan-Allen, Coordinator International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, UK
  59. John Flanagan, Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group, UK
  60. Linda Reinstein, President, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, USA
  61. Farai Maguwu, Director, Centre for Natural Resource Governance, Zimbabwe

Signed in their individual capacity:

  1. Dr Sophia Kisting, Asbestos activist, South Africa
  2. Emeritus Professor Eugene Cairncross, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa
  3. Dr Shuaib Manjra, Occupational Health Physician, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  4. Leslie London, Chair of Public Health Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  5. Rajen Naidoo, Associate Professor, Head of Discipline Occupational and Environmental Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  6. Dr Shahieda Adams, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  7. Dr Saloshni Naidoo, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  8. Ken Takahashi, Director and Professor, Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, Australia
  9. Alister Alister, Electrical Trade Union, Australia
  10. Frank Willems, Programme Management Assistant, ITUC, Belgium
  11. Manubhai Prajapati, India
  12. Mageswari Sangaralingam, Research Officer, Consumers' Association of Penang, Malaysia
  13. Dr Thomas H Gassert, Asst. Professor of Occupational & Environmental Medicine Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, USA
  14. Jenny Luck, Labour Consultant, UK

1. Mr Z Laher Acting Director at United Nations (UN),  Laherz@dirco.gov.za
2. Rotterdam Convention Designated national authority for industrial chemicals and pesticides (DNA CP),  Ms. Judie Combrink, Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, globalengagements@deat.gov.za
3. Rotterdam Convention Designated national authority for industrial chemicals (DNA C), Stockholm Convention National focal point (NFP), Ms. Noluzuko Gwayi, Senior Policy Advisor / Director, ngwayi@environment.gov.za