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Statement by Vladimir Tsalko, Head of the Comity for Chernobyl Catastrophe Problems at the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus at the fifty-eighth session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, 21 October 2003

Distinguished Mr. President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today the General Assembly is to consider the issue which is of great significance both for my country and the whole international community. The Chernobyl catastrophe marked the entry of the human civilization into the new stage of development when technological risk multiplied by the human factor is jeopardizing its existence.

At present we all have to answer a number of questions: have we managed to find an adequate response to this challenge? What is the current situation in the most affected regions? What are the efforts to be made in order to improve the situation and increase the potential of the world community to cope with a possible reiteration of large-scale radiation disasters.

Belarus, where nearly 2 million people still reside in the contaminated areas making up 23% of the country’s territory, continues to undertake considerable efforts aimed at minimizing the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe.

Every year we have to allocate for addressing the post-Chernobyl problems the amounts comparable with our education, health care and defense expenditures. Since 1991 we have spent more than 13 billion USD to alleviate the Chernobyl impacts and the estimated total damage amounts to 235 billion USD. It is evident that these additional compelling expenditures could be otherwise allocated for the social and economic development of the country.

Due to consistent and efficient measures at the national level the country has managed to minimize the impact of the radiation factor: the radiological situation in Belarus is stable and under regular monitoring. However, the Chernobyl catastrophe has entailed a range of complex problems for the health sector, nature management and economic development of the affected regions.

There is some degree of uncertainty with regard to saving good health conditions of the people living in the contaminated areas and to the measures which should be undertaken in this field. There is still no common opinion at the international level regarding the long-term impact of small exposure doses on people. This can’t but be a matter of concern.

We highly estimate the catalytic information and mobilization potential of the United Nations in overcoming the Chernobyl aftermath. It was not accident that the first resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on this issue setting up political and institutional basis for developing full-fledged international cooperation on the Chernobyl-related issues was called the resolution of «humanism, solidarity and charity».

The UN Secretary-General’s report submitted for our consideration quite fully reflects the measures have been undertaken by the national Governments of the affected states in collaboration with the specialized agencies and other bodies of the United Nations system, as well as the current difficulties in the process of implementation of the resolution 56/109 on Chernobyl adopted at the 56th session of the UN General Assembly.

At the current session the three most affected countries – Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine – initiate the adoption of a new resolution on Chernobyl. This is a logical and consistent measure in implementing the new strategy proposed in the UN Report “The Human Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident. The Strategy for Recovery” envisaging a gradual shift from provision of humanitarian aid to ensuring sustainable development of the affected regions.

The implementation of this strategy is based upon a comprehensive approach to addressing the post-Chernobyl problems which incorporates taking a set of measures in the health sector, in the spheres of social and psychological rehabilitation, environmental recovery and economic development. This approach is based on the concept of active involvement of the affected population in the rehabilitation process.

The Government of Belarus gives full support to this strategy and calls for enhanced international collaboration which is a powerful instrument in alleviating the consequences of the catastrophe. I would like to emphasize that the most important task at current stage is to translate theoretical recommendations into real projects and collaboration programs.

Such work is already under way in Belarus.

On 15 October 2003 the Declaration of the Principles of the International Program “Cooperation for Rehabilitation” was signed in Minsk. The UNDP, UNESCO, OSCE, the Swiss Cooperation and Development Agency, a number of non-governmental organizations of the European countries are among the international participants of the Program.

The European Commission, a number of the EU member states and other participants are expected to join the Declaration in the nearest future.

Taking advantage of this opportunity I would like to urge all countries and international organizations concerned to take part in the implementation of the Program which is the first one among the new generation Chernobyl initiatives aimed at ensuring sustainable development of the affected regions.

I am confident that the United Nations has necessary knowledge, technologies and resources to implement development programs in the Chernobyl-affected regions.

The Chernobyl International Research and Information Network and the IAEA Chernobyl Forum established this year will definitely make a valuable contribution to elaboration of concrete programs and projects. We expect that the outcomes of their activities will help to achieve significant improvement in living conditions of the people affected by the largest radiation disaster.

I would also like to draw attention to the initiative announced recently in this chamber by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus. It is connected to organizing in Minsk in 2006 an international conference to mark the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe. I am confident that the conference will promote further enhancement of the international cooperation on the Chernobyl-related issues on the basis of the principles of solidarity, mutually beneficial collaboration and efficient coordination of bilateral and multilateral initiatives.

We would like to invite all those interested to take part in the preparation and work of this international conference.

In conclusion, I would like to invite UN member-states to render their valuable support to the draft Resolution on Chernobyl. May I wish that its noble principles be a sound basis for consolidating the efforts of the international community for recovery of decent living conditions for the people affected by the Chernobyl catastrophe.

I thank you for your attention!