Helen Clark: Statement at the UN Inter-agency Taskforce Meeting on Chernobyl

Apr 11, 2016

Good morning, and welcome to the 2016 meeting of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Chernobyl. 

This is my fourth opportunity to chair the meeting of the IATF since I became UNDP Administrator – and, ex-officio UN Co-ordinator of International Co-operation on Chernobyl. This is the eighth meeting of this kind since UNDP took over from UN-OCHA the UN system-wide co-ordination on Chernobyl in 2004. I am happy to see so many familiar faces in the room and on the screen. 

Let me introduce the Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS. Ms. Sultanoğlu will take over as chair of the meeting following my departure at 11:30.

I am very pleased with the participation at today’s meeting which underlines the lasting impacts still today of the Chernobyl accident and our strong shared commitment over the intervening thirty years to overcome them. 

Of the long list of people I wish to welcome, let me start with the government observers, including representatives of the three countries most affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident: Mr. Valentin Rybakov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, Ambassador Andrei Dapkiunas, Permanent Representative of Belarus to the United Nations, Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations and Mr. Sergey Kononuchenko, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations. 

Let me welcome the many participants joining us by videoconference. UN Resident Co-ordinators and members of two UN Country Teams are joining us from our Country Offices in Kyiv and Minsk. 

We also have participants joining us by videoconference and phone from London (EBRD), Geneva (UNEP, WHO), Vienna (IAEA, UNSCEAR, FAO). 

Here in New York I welcome representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Delegation of the European Union to the UN, IAEA, the World Bank, UNDP, UNV and WHO.
Finally, let me greet observer participants from UN Member States which are either actively supporting or very interested in recovery efforts and nuclear legacy issues – Ambassador Mr. Mahmadamin Mahmadaminov, Permanent Representative of Tajikistan to the United Nations, Mr. Arslanbek Umetaliev, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kyrgyz Republic to the United Nations, as well as representatives of the Permanent Missions of Germany, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Poland, and USA to the UN.

During today’s meeting, I will ask the key stakeholders to present their updates and perspective on Chernobyl activities, after which the floor will be open for questions and comments and, if time allows, for brief closing remarks.

To set the stage for today’s event, allow me to start with my own observations and remarks.

The purpose of today’s meeting is two-fold:
1.    to review progress on Chernobyl-related activities since the last IATF in May 2014;
2.    to brief on the process and outcomes of the consultative process to define the vision for post-2016 international co-operation on Chernobyl.   

The update on activities since May 2014 will be especially warranted since the reporting period has been very productive for the Chernobyl teams in UNDP and for other UN agencies, both at Headquarters and in the field.

This IATF meeting comes at an opportune moment in the lead up to a series of important Chernobyl-related milestones in 2016: 

First, this year will mark the thirtieth anniversary of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on 26 April 1986 – one of the most severe nuclear accidents in history which created long-lasting humanitarian, environmental, social, economic, and health consequences and other problems of common concern.

I welcome the initiatives of the Governments of the affected countries to organize commemorative events on the occasion of the anniversary of Chernobyl accident. I plan to be in Minsk on 25 April to participate in the high-level conference on the thirtieth anniversary of Chernobyl. The UN system will also take part in the commemorative events on 26 April in Ukraine.

The anniversaries of Chernobyl accident offer an opportunity to reflect on the recovery process, take stock of the results and solutions which have worked on the ground, and to appreciate once again the heroic efforts of the first responders who rushed to the damaged reactor on 26 April 1986 and sacrificed their lives or their health for the benefit of affected communities. 

Second, the vision for post-2016 international co-operation on Chernobyl is under preparation. Three rounds of consultations were held to define this new approach: two in Minsk over the past several months (May 2015; February 2016) and one in Vienna late last year (9 October 2015). 

A detailed update on the results of the consultative process will be provided later by Ms. Oksana Leshchenko, Policy Specialist, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support. The outcome documents of three expert meetings have been disseminated in advance of the meeting and are in the participants’ folders. 

Third, this year marks the close of the Decade of Recovery and Sustainable Development of the Chernobyl-affected regions. The Action Plan on Chernobyl, which serves as a practical framework and common strategy for implementation of the third Decade, will also end this year. I congratulate government and UN colleagues for the productive co-operation during this Decade.

Fourth, later in 2016 the UN Secretary-General’s Report on Chernobyl will be received, and the new UN General Assembly Resolution on Chernobyl will be adopted. 

The formal progress review and work on these documents will give us a valuable opportunity to assess achievements under the Decade of Recovery and Sustainable Development and results of the UN Action Plan to 2016. 

Ten years have passed since UNDP assumed responsibility for co-ordination of all UN activities related to the Chernobyl accident and led the promotion of developmental approaches to Chernobyl-related work with affected countries, people, and communities. 

I believe there is consensus that the ‘development approach’ to addressing the human consequences of Chernobyl and other nuclear legacies has worked, affected communities have embraced the strategy of self-reliance and self-sufficiency, and the lessons from these experiences are now well documented for replication in the future. Despite progress achieved, there is still work to be done to help affected regions and communities realize their full development potential.  

Let us acknowledge our numerous examples of the UN family “Delivering as One” on Chernobyl. But international activities can only be effective if they support, amplify, and act as levers of change in the far larger efforts made by local, regional, and national government agencies.  In this regard, special words of appreciation go to the Governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. 

Looking ahead, the post-2016 international co-operation on Chernobyl will have even stronger national leadership and bring the function of co-ordinating the international co-operation closer to the field level. You will hear more about this in the update from UNDP. 

Further Chernobyl recovery efforts will be linked to attaining the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and will work for the benefits of affected regions and communities. No one should be left behind in overcoming the Chernobyl legacy. 

To wrap-up, 2016 promises to be a very busy year for our work on Chernobyl, and your participation in today’s meeting will help us make the most of it. I look forward to productive discussions ahead.

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