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Statement by Belarus on behalf of the Eastern European Group at the commemorative meeting of the General Assembly in observance of the 30th Anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe (April 26, 2016, New York)

Today, the Eastern European Regional Group calls to remembrance of this severe disaster in Ukraine at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant that led to loss of human lives, significant health, environmental and economic consequences in the countries in our region. We pay tribute to those who died at time of the catastrophe, to those who carried out first response and had to pay the price of their lives or sacrifice their health and wellbeing, and we stand in solidarity with those who live in the affected areas in our countries.

This one of the biggest man-made disasters affected not only our region. It was a tragedy for the entire international community. Nevertheless, it gave rise to one of the most remarkable examples of comprehensive global cooperation to overcome the consequences of a major disaster. It changed the way countries deal with nuclear power, by improving their safety and security, and stimulating more cautious attitude to technological progress. In this context the importance of international standards of nuclear safety and security cannot be underestimated. The Chernobyl disaster encouraged countries using nuclear energy to initiate the Convention on Nuclear Safety, and later, following the Fukushima accident, to adopt the Vienna declaration on nuclear safety.

The disaster led to allocating huge domestic and international resources for development, healthcare, environment protection, agriculture in the affected regions. For almost thirty years, the United Nations has been playing a crucial role by coordinating multilateral assistance in mitigating long-term consequences on the community, national, regional and global levels. In this respect we wish to acknowledge with appreciation the role of the entire UN family, as well as of the United Nations Development Programme and its Administrator as the current UN coordinator of international Chernobyl cooperation.

As one of the results of such cooperation, the global community has gained unique knowledge, mastered best practices and experience of how to prevent, react to and resolve the long-term consequences of man-made disasters. It highlighted one of the primary lessons of Chernobyl, namely that the international community should stay vigilant, prepared and united in the face of such disasters – something that was witnessed, for instance, in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.

The lessons of Chernobyl and other nuclear accidents oblige us to develop nuclear technologies in conformity with the spirit and letter of international nuclear safety and security requirements. Countries must assume responsibility for their own people and those of the whole world when planning, developing, and operating nuclear facilities. This is the most reliable way to efficiently prevent similar disasters from happening, as the costs of mistakes are much too high for our world.

But even more than a technological disaster, Chernobyl was – and remains – an enormous human tragedy that showed us the fragility of our world. It revealed the importance of simple things that keep humanity alive – caring for the loved ones, empathy with the suffering of others and willingness to lend a helping hand to those in need. The lesson of Chernobyl, that we all still have to learn by heart, is about how easily these plain but vital things can collapse and how challenging it is to repair them through assistance, dialogue and cooperation.

Preserving the positive forward-looking Chernobyl agenda is not only the way to keep remembrance. It is equally a means to invest in the future – through enhancing partnership and cooperation, working for greater safety worldwide, reducing risks of disasters and preserving knowledge and experience.

Paying respect to the past, we need to look forward. What we wish to highlight today is that Chernobyl should stay as a reminder to us that we all have a shared commitment to a better, safer and more prosperous future, leaving no one behind.