Belarus marks 30th anniversary of Chernobyl disaster

Apr 25, 2016


Human well-being, resilience and sustainable development need to be at center of disaster prevention and recovery efforts, says UNDP Administrator Helen Clark

MinskThirty years on, the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl still exerts an indelible impact on the lives of people in Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation, but communities and governments have shown unparalleled resolve to chart a more sustainable future, UN representatives remarked at a commemoration ceremony held here today.  

In his address to the conference participants, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that Belarus’ experience and knowledge in responding to the tragedy could be used by people in other parts of the world to manage and minimize the consequences of disasters.

“The loss and pain caused by the disaster must never be forgotten, but today we also honor all those who gave their lives and health in a fight with the tragedy’s consequences,” said UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark.

“This anniversary is also an occasion to acknowledge the remarkable efforts undertaken by the three most affected governments and societies to help the affected communities recover, to acknowledge the important progress made, as well as to look to the future with greater confidence and hope,” she added.

The radioactive fallout from the world’s worst nuclear disaster has permeated every aspect of the surrounding areas’ economies and societies. Missed profits and investment opportunities in Belarus are estimated at US$ 13.7 billion. In addition, 470 small towns and villages had been erased from the map of Belarus with 138,000 people unrooted from their homes.

The governments from the three most affected countries – Belarus, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation – have provided life-saving humanitarian assistance to affected populations. In the last decade, UNDP led a shift from direct humanitarian assistance and emergency management to sustainable economic and social development of the affected communities.

UN agencies, international donors, partners and civil society organizations put a focus on addressing the long-term needs of the affected territories.

Thanks to strong partnerships with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), UNDP, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), significant achievements have been made to provide local stakeholders with up-to-date and scientifically-accurate information.

With UNDP’s support, 21 Chernobyl-affected districts have equipped themselves with better health monitoring and healthcare services, opportunities for job creation, world-standard systems for radiological quality control and a sense of pride and cultural heritage.

Through a series of projects implemented over the span of a decade, almost 17,000 women have been screened for breast cancer, and more than 2,000 rural smallholdings have learned to grow safe crops, rear cattle and market their produce in neighboring regions. On average, these small businesses have increased their market profits by 5-20 percent.

With financing from the European Union (EU), municipalities, regional authorities and civil society organizations have pioneered, through UNDP projects, new models for promoting leadership and citizen engagement in decision-making, involving close to 11,000 people in the formulation of local projects. These models and networks constitute an enduring blueprint for local democracy, decentralization and development.

“UNDP believes that the developmental approach to addressing the human consequences of the Chernobyl accident is yielding practical results,” Helen Clark said.

“Among them are increased access to opportunities for work, improved co-operation between communities and authorities, increased capacity of local communities to mobilize resources for community-based projects, greater self-reliance and self-sufficiency in communities, and increased public awareness and knowledge on the consequences of the Chernobyl accident.”

During her official visit to Minsk, Helen Clark received an award from the Republic of Belarus, the Francysk Skaryna Order, in recognition of UNDP’s work to promote development in Belarus and to support the recovery of Chernobyl-affected communities.

Helen Clark, together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vladimir Makei, and Scott Rauland, U.S. Chargé d'Affaires in Belarus, inaugurated a new school named after U.S. citizen Ruth Waller, an employee of the UN Relief and Reconstruction Agency (UNRRA) who dedicated herself to servicing communities in post-war Belarus.

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UNDP works in nearly 170 countries and territories, helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion. We help countries to develop policies, leadership skills, partnering abilities, institutional capabilities and build resilience in order to sustain development results. In 2016, UNDP is continuing its work to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or Global Goals, as they help shape global sustainable development for the next 15 years.

Contact information

Krystsina Dulevich, Communications Analyst, krystsina.dulevich@undp.org

UNDP Around the world