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IWC first vote – secrecy rejected

IWC first vote – secrecy rejected

Japan has lost its first vote at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Italy, despite buying off countries to support it, Greenpeace said this morning.

In the first vote of the meeting, the Japanese Government’s proposal for secret ballots was rejected by 29 votes against and 24 votes in favour. (1)

“A vote against Japan’s move to hide its vote-buying means the IWC maintains transparency and lets the world know who the bought nations are,” said Rebecca Hayden of Greenpeace NZ.

However, a difficult week lies ahead. The number of countries in favour of whaling at the IWC is steadily increasing, not because opponents of whaling world-wide have changed their minds, but because new members are being recruited with promises of financial aid. (2)

"Some of the poorest developing countries in the world are being used to vote in favour of whaling," said campaigner John Frizell, of Greenpeace International in Italy. "This is a clear case of "money talks" and it's happening right in front of us. It is time we put a stop to this ongoing vote buying, before it is too late." (3)

Tuvalu, Cote d'Ivoire, Mauritania and Surinam joined the IWC this year and all supported the secret ballot vote, and are expected to vote for a resumption of whaling. The reason for their interest is openly stated in the Japanese press.

Japan's IWC Commissioner explained it to the Japanese press last month by saying: "We have been putting our efforts to appeal to every potential nation at all levels and at all possible venues."

The nature of these "appeals" is well documented: Japan's former vice minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, Hiraoki Kameya, said in June 1999 that it was "essential to increase the number of nations supportive to Japan ... [and therefore] necessary to couple effectively the Overseas Development Assistance and the promotion of IWC membership."

Antigua's former Prime Minister Lester Bird was even more direct "I make no bones about it ... if we are able to support the Japanese and the quid pro quo is that they are going to give us some assistance ... that is part of why we do so."

"The balance at the IWC is so close now that issues may turn on a single vote" said Frizell. "It is appalling that a conservation measure supported by hundreds of millions of people around the world could be swept away by a well financed campaign of vote buying by a government representing the interests of an outdated industry."

Notes to editors: (1) Voting for secret ballots were: Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Benin, China, Dominica, Gabon, Grenada, Guinea, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Mauritania, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Russia, St. Kits and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Solomon Islands, Surinam, Tuvalu Voting against were: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Oman, Peru, Portugal, San Marino, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA

(2) The annual IWC meeting takes place from 19th-23rd of July in Sorrento, Italy. The IWC was established in 1946 in response to the over catching of whales and it agreed to a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982 because of its continuing failure to manage whales without their populations declining.

(3) The pro whaling lobby in the IWC is led by Japan. Since the 1990s they have used a tactic of buying votes to gain a majority to overturn the ban on whaling.

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