20 September 1991

     Press Release


Following is the text of Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar's statement to the Chernobyl Pledging Conference, held today:

First of all, I wish to thank you for accepting my invitation to participate in this Pledging Conference today.

This Conference marks the culmination of the first round of a process which began on 26 April 1990, the fourth anniversary of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. It was then that the Governments of the USSR, Byelorussia and the Ukraine requested the Economic and Social Council to discuss international cooperation to mitigate the consequences of the accident.

As a result of this request, the Council adopted an important resolution last year, and I sent an inter-agency mission, headed by Gerald Hinteregger, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe, to the affected areas. I communicated the findings of the mission to the General Assembly which adopted, by consensus, a resolution appealing to the international community to provide help, and calling on me to undertake several actions.

Accordingly, in March of this year, I appointed Under-Secretary-General Margaret Anstee, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna, as Coordinator, and with the agreement of the Administrative Committee on Coordination, an inter-agency task force was set up.

I am pleased that the United Nations system has been working closely together and in close cooperation with the designated Government authorities, in response to the requests of the General Assembly. The document before you, which was circulated by the Coordinator to your Governments in July, is the outcome of these cooperative efforts. It comprises the assistance requirements in the form of a joint plan elaborated by the Governments concerned, as well as all on-going programmes and activities of the United Nations system relating to Chernobyl. The plan principally addresses the economic, social and humanitarian aspects of the problem, and comprises 131 projects grouped in seven main areas of activity. The total of external contributions requested is approximately $650 million.

I believe that there are overwhelming reasons for international support in this endeavour. The world-wide outpouring of concern and recollection that marked the fifth anniversary of the disaster this year indicated most tellingly that it has not been erased from the minds of ordinary people everywhere.

Among the reasons justifying support I would stress the following:

First, there are hundreds of thousands of people affected by the nuclear accident. They are exposed to continuing health hazards and to tremendous psychological stress. They desperately need help.

Secondly, while the authorities of the USSR, Byelorussia, the Ukraine and Russia have already spent considerable resources in addressing the accident, its magnitude is such that additional help is urgently needed.

Thirdly, the Chernobyl accident is unique because the full nature and extent of its harmful effects are still not clear, and its consequences reach far into the future.

Fourthly, Chernobyl is a disaster which raises many disturbing questions. Is any country adequately prepared to deal expeditiously and effectively with a disaster of this scale and nature? What more can be done to prevent such an occurrence?

In addition, Chernobyl is different from other disasters in that it may have affected people who live thousands of miles away, as the radioactive release and its insidious effects transcended national boundaries.

The plan envisages a totally pragmatic approach, including direct bilateral arrangements with the recipient States concerned. It provides a coordinated framework for all such aid, multilateral or bilateral, so as to ensure the best possible use of resources. Contributions therefore need not necessarily be made through the United Nations, though we obviously hope that some will.

I trust that Governments will provide the United Nations with full information on actions taken in response to the present appeal, including those of a bilateral nature, so as to facilitate the task of coordinating all international assistance for Chernobyl.

Finally, I urge you to respond generously to my appeal.

United Nations Page on Chernobyl Disaster