Remarks by Helen Clark at the Chernobyl Commemoration

24 Apr 2009

Excellencies,
Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen

In my role as UN Co-ordinator of International Co-operation on Chernobyl, I welcome you to this commemoration of the 23rd anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Today’s event also marks the launch of a new UN project which aims to address the information needs of the communities affected by the accident.

While I am very new to my role as Co-ordinator, I am well aware of the challenges which face the Chernobyl-affected communities of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Even in my country, New Zealand, which is far away from Chernobyl, we were very shocked at the news of the nuclear accident there in 1986, and we were deeply concerned about the effects of the fall out on neighbouring populations.

On today’s anniversary we remember the suffering which that disaster caused.

We remember those brave emergency workers who selflessly raced to the damaged reactor.

We remember the 5,000 people who were children at the time who later contracted thyroid cancer.

We remember the 330,000 residents who were uprooted from their homes with little prospect of return.

We remember the many millions who were left traumatized by lingering fears about their health and livelihoods.

So, today’s anniversary must always be a sombre occasion. But we can also acknowledge that, by working together, we can make a difference for the better for those affected by the tragedy.

It is heartening to see governments, local communities, UN agencies, and other partners all committed to focusing on the social and economic development of the region surrounding Chernobyl. We all agree on the need to improve infrastructure, promote small business, and spur job creation. UNDP, for its part, is pursuing initiatives in these areas in all three countries.

The Chernobyl response also provides a good example of UN agencies working together, in the spirit of “Delivering as One.” The UN Action Plan on Chernobyl to 2016 reflects a UN-wide commitment to shared principles and priorities addressing the Chernobyl recovery efforts. This will guide the UN’s work during the Decade of Recovery and Sustainable Development of the Affected Regions proclaimed by the General Assembly.

This commitment is also clear in the UN project which we are launching today:  the International Chernobyl Research and Information Network. Known by its acronym, ICRIN [e-krin], this project brings together four agencies – IAEA, UNDP, UNICEF, and WHO – in a joint effort to promote human security. It will provide up-to-date and accurate information to affected communities, and it will promote healthy lifestyles.

People need sound information to make good decisions. Translating science into accurate, hands-on advice will help people lead safe and productive lives in the areas affected by the accident at Chernobyl and contribute to development in this region, which has such rich traditions and potential. Working together, we can help make that happen.

To all present today, thank you for coming. Thank you for your support for this project, and thank you for your ongoing efforts to advance development in the affected areas.

I would now like to turn over the chair of today’s meeting to my colleague, Kori Udovicki, Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS.