SPEAKERS SAY SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE'S BUDGET SHORTFALL MUST BE ADDRESSED, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE TAKES UP REPORT ON EFFECTS OF ATOMIC RADIATION

11 October 2002
GA/SPD/242

SPEAKERS SAY SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE'S BUDGET SHORTFALL MUST BE ADDRESSED, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE TAKES UP REPORT ON EFFECTS OF ATOMIC RADIATION

11/10/2002
Press Release
GA/SPD/242


Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Fourth Committee

10th Meeting (AM)


SPEAKERS SAY SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE'S BUDGET SHORTFALL MUST BE ADDRESSED,


AS FOURTH COMMITTEE TAKES UP REPORT ON EFFECTS OF ATOMIC RADIATION


As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its consideration of the report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation this morning, speakers stressed the critical need to address that body's current budget shortfall.


The representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that a solution to the Scientific Committee's recent budget crisis must be found as soon as possible.  Disruptions to that body's cost-effective work would have an adverse impact on the other international organizations that depended on the Scientific Committee’s assessments.  The Union supported the work of the Scientific Committee, which provided the international community with an essential and independent evaluation of the levels and effects of exposure to atomic radiation.


India's representative agreed that the quality of the Scientific Committee's work should not be compromised by budget reductions.  The Scientific Committee enlisted the services of highly professional and competent consultants to carry out its reviews.  The quality of their work would be impacted if the present situation continued.  The Scientific Committee's present budget was half of what it had been in 1992 to 1993, and two thirds of what it had been in 1994 to    1995.  That the Scientific Committee could not hold an annual meeting in 2002 was a matter of concern.  He called on the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide the Scientific Committee with the funding it needed to carry out the mandate entrusted to it.


Ukraine's representative said that all Member States benefited from the work of the Scientific Committee.  Having suffered the effects of the most serious nuclear accident -- at Chernobyl in 1986 -- Ukraine attached particular significance to the Committee.  In that regard, she commended the Committee's intention to continue to study the health effects of the Chernobyl accident as a priority for its future work.  Because of its experience in the field of atomic radiation, she said that Ukraine would be in a unique position to contribute to the Scientific Committee's work.


Before the general debate, the Chairman of the Scientific Committee, Enio Cordeiro (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and associated States, introduced the Committee's report, saying the gradual deterioration of the Scientific Committee's budget in recent years had affected the development of its work.  Insufficient funds for the biennium 2002 to 2003 had


hindered its ability to prepare documents, disseminate information and support the work of its consultants.


Introducing a related draft resolution, he said that text reflected the need for adequate resources to carry out the Scientific Committee's mandate.  The draft resolution, among other things, urged UNEP to strengthen funding and stressed the importance of holding annual meetings. 


Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Japan, Belarus and Cuba.


The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Tuesday, 15 October, to conclude its general debate on the effects of atomic radiation.


Background


As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its debate this morning on the effects of atomic radiation, it had before it report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the effects of atomic radiation (document A/57/46).  Established in 1955, the Scientific Committee is mandated to collect, assemble and evaluate information on the levels of ionizing radiation and radionuclides from all sources and to study their possible effects on humans and the environment. 


While treaties now ban tests of weapons in the atmosphere, many other exposures to radiation occur from other sources and practices, the report says.  Nuclear reactors are used in many countries to produce electrical energy.  While their operation is responsible for only a minute fraction of radiation exposure worldwide, there is concern about possible radiation-related adverse health consequences from accidents, such as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. 


According to the report, the most significant source of exposure remains natural radiation.  Natural radiation sources include cosmic rays that enter the atmosphere from outer space, potassium, uranium, radon and other radionuclides in soil, water, food and the human body.  Some occupational workers are exposed to enhanced levels of naturally radioactive materials.  Medical diagnostic and therapeutic procedures using X-rays and radionuclides are also increasingly common.  Global exposure to radiation from natural and medical sources is considerably larger than that caused by fallout from weapons testing, even at its peak during the mid-1960s.


The report says that at its fiftieth session, held in Vienna from 23 to    27 April 2001, the Scientific Committee decided on a new programme of work.  That programme includes, among others:  the gathering of new data on radiation exposure from natural, man-made and occupational sources; evaluation of medical exposures; a comprehensive assessment of radon in homes and workplaces; and an examination of the effects of radiation on the environment as part of a study on radioecology.  The Committee also plans to examine the potential consequences of newly identified cellular responses to radiation for the development of cancer risk from radiation.  It will also continue studies on the radiological health effects from the      1986 Chernobyl accident.


Inadequate funding, however, has delayed progress on the Scientific Committee's main programme of work, the report says.  Non-post funds to service annual sessions have deteriorated and are now one-half the necessary amount.  The shortfall -- some $150,000 over two years -- is most crucial for funding consultants to assist in the preparation and dissemination of the Scientific Committee's documents.  To address the current shortfall, the Scientific Committee decided to reschedule its fifty-first session to January 2003, combining 2002 and 2003 funds so that one full-scale meeting will take place during a two-year period. 


As the international authority in radiation risk assessment, a solution to the Scientific Committee's budget crisis must be found, the report says.  While it is part of the mandate of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to support the Scientific Committee, a major factor in the budget shortfall has been that body's failure to include the Committee's input in the formulation of its budget.  The steady deterioration of support provided by UNEP is illustrated by the Committee's total budget allocation for 2002 to 2003 --some $674,000 -- which is down from $1.22 million in 1992 to 1993.  The Scientific Committee requests the General Assembly to reaffirm its support for that body by directing UNEP to meet its obligations under General Assembly resolution 56/60 of 2001.


The Committee also had before it a draft resolution on the effects of atomic radiation (document A/C.4/57/L.7).  By the terms of that text, the Assembly would commend the Scientific Committee for the valuable contribution it had been making for the past 47 years to wider knowledge and understanding of the levels, effects and risks of ionizing radiation and for fulfilling its original mandate with scientific authority and independence of judgement.


According to the text, the Assembly would request the Scientific Committee to continue its work, including important activities to increase knowledge of levels, effects and risks of ionizing radiation from all sources.  It would endorse the Scientific Committee's plans for its future activities of scientific review and assessment on behalf of the General Assembly.  The Assembly would also request the Scientific Committee to continue, at its next session, to review the important problems in the field of ionizing radiation. 


By further terms of the text, the Assembly would request UNEP to continue providing support for the effective conduct of the Scientific Committee and for the dissemination of its findings to the Assembly, the scientific community and the public.  It would invite the Scientific Committee to continue its consultations with scientists and experts from interested Member States in the process of preparing its future scientific reports.  In that context, the Assembly would welcome the readiness of Member States to provide the Scientific Committee with relevant information on the effects of ionizing radiation in affected areas.  Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations would be invited to provide relevant data about doses, effects and risks from various sources of radiation.


Further, the Assembly would urge UNEP to review and strengthen present funding of the Scientific Committee, pursuant to paragraph seven of resolution 56/60, so that the Committee could discharge the responsibilities and mandate entrusted to it.  It would also recognize the need for holding regular sessions of the Scientific Committee on an annual basis, so that its report could reflect the latest developments and findings in the field of ionizing radiation, thereby providing updated information for dissemination among all States.


Introduction of Report


ENIO CORDEIRO (Brazil) Chairman of the Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation introduced the Committee's report and made a statement on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and associated States.  MERCOSUR countries were concerned by the effects of atomic radiation.  The quality of the Scientific Committee's report contributed to the quest for a healthier environment.  Its evaluations were a reference point for the work of various international bodies.  The Scientific Committee's work programme included new research on atomic radiation.  New sources of biological information were available and compiling that information had become increasingly necessary. 


The gradual deterioration of the Scientific Committee's budget in recent years had affected the development of its work, he said.  Funds for the biennium 2002 to 2003 were insufficient to help the Committee in preparing documents, disseminating information and supporting the work of consultants.  He hoped that UNEP would share the Committee's concern, so that it could renew its normal activities.  He expressed MERCOSUR's commitment to the use of nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes, such as economic and social development.  International agreements guaranteed the peaceful use of the atom in MERCOSUR countries. 


He then introduced the draft resolution, saying that it endorsed the Scientific Committee's mandate.  While the draft followed the structure and wording of last year's resolution, there were a few additions.  The preamble contained a new paragraph noting the interest of some Member States in becoming members of the Committee.  In the operational part of the draft, two new paragraphs reflected the need for adequate resources to carry out the Committee's mandate.  It urged UNEP to strengthen the Scientific Committee's funding.  The draft also stressed the importance of yearly meetings.  It was his hope that the draft resolution would be adopted by consensus, as was the case in previous years.


MORTEN LYKKE LAURIDSEN (Denmark), on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Union fully supported the work programme adopted by the Scientific Committee at its April 2001 meeting, particularly with regard to the studies on the health effects of the Chernobyl accident and initiatives to examine radiation effects in the environment, as part of a study of radioecology.  He noted the importance, benefits and quality of the Scientific Committee’s work, and commended the presentation of the Scientific Committee’s report on the Internet.


The Union also endorsed the future intentions and plans of the Scientific Committee and wanted a solution to be found to the recent budget crisis of that Committee as quickly as possible.  Disruptions in its cost-effective work might otherwise lead to adverse impacts on other international organizations that depended on the Scientific Committee’s assessments.  He reiterated the Union’s support of the Scientific Committee, whose work provided the international community with an essential and independent contribution towards evaluation of the levels and effects of exposure to atomic radiation.


RAMJI LAL SUMAN (India) said his country had co-sponsored the draft resolution on the work of the Scientific Committee for the past years.  India recognized the importance and scientific implications of the Committee's work.   Its unbiased and critical assessment of the effects of radiation at various levels in different living systems had guided regulatory agencies in establishing safe limits of exposures for occupational workers.  The Committee meticulously collected and evaluated information on the various sources and possible effects of ionizing radiation and radionuclides.


That the Scientific Committee could not meet in 2002 to carry forward its new programme of work was a matter of concern, he said.  The Committee's present budget was just half of what it had been in 1992 to 1993 and two thirds of what it had been in 1994 to 1995.  The Scientific Committee enlisted the services of highly professional and competent consultants to carry out its reviews.  The quality of its work could not be compromised.  India called upon UNEP to recognize the importance of the Committee's work and its relevance to UNEP's objectives and to support it with additional funds as requested, taking into account inflation rates.

MARKIYAN KULYK (Ukraine) said that her country had always supported the work of the Scientific Committee as a major international body that carried out a comprehensive, scientific review of the sources and effects of ionizing radiation.  All Member States benefited from its work.  Ukraine attached particular significance to the Committee, since its activities related to the study of the radiological effects of the Chernobyl accident.  In that regard, she commended the Committee's intention to continue to study the health effects of the Chernobyl accident as a priority for its future work.  She also noted the establishment of close collaboration of the three affected countries in the Committee's work on Chernobyl. 


Ukraine welcomed the Scientific Committee's plans for future activities in radiation risk assessments, including gathering new data on radiation exposure from natural, manmade and occupational sources.  Insufficient resources, however, had hindered the Scientific Committee's progress.  It was imperative that a constructive solution be found to the current situation.  Ukraine had expressed its desire during the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly to become a member of the Scientific Committee and she reiterated that interest.  Given the Committee's specific sphere of competence, it would be to the Committee's advantage to invite countries with special expertise in the field of atomic radiation.  Ukraine had significant scientific capacity in the area of radiological research, as well as unique expertise in dealing with the effects of radiation. 


KATSUHIKO TAKAHASHI (Japan) said his country attached great importance to the activities of the Scientific Committee and was co-sponsoring the present resolution before the Special Committee in the conviction that the Scientific Committee’s activities of collecting, structuring and disseminating radiological information were essential in a world that was increasingly reliant on nuclear technology.


As the only country to have suffered from the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, and as a country that has long been committed to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Japan was determined to use its wealth of experience for the greater benefit of humankind, he continued.  Japan attached the highest piority to safety in utilizing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, while striving to promote safety, domestically and internationally.


Citing Japan’s establishment of a Special Advisory Board for International Activities on Radiation Protection, he said Japan, with the support of Kazakhstan, was now conducting a survey to assess the effects of radiation on the health of the people in the Semipalatinsk region.  Japan appreciated the contributions of the Scientific Committee’s work and hoped that the budgetary request submitted recently by the Scientific Committee to UNEP would be duly considered.


ALEG IVANOU (Belarus) supported the continuation of the Scientific Committee’s activities, expressing the conviction that the guiding principles of the Committee’s work must include objectivity, impartiality and taking the widest possible account of the opinions of all interested parties with regard to the issues on its agenda.  Further, the Scientific Committee should be enabled to fully carry out its mandate, and he regretted that the Committee was not able to hold its regular session in 2002.

He said that as a result of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, and after long years of overcoming those consequences, Belarus had gained significant and unique expertise with respect to the issues concerning the effects of atomic radiation.  His country, therefore, declared its readiness to fully discharge its functions as a full-fledged member of the Scientific Committee.  He called for consideration by the General Assembly in the near future on the issue of enlargement of the membership of the Scientific Committee.  An objective understanding of the true effects of atomic radiation on human health and the environment could only be achieved based on the consolidation and analysis of all the available data possessed by United Nations Member States


ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) reaffirming the importance his country attached to the work of the Scientific Committee as a source of specialized, objective and balanced information on matters within its competence, said the report before the Special Committee contained a comprehensive review of the risks faced by descendants of those who had been exposed to ionizing radiation.  That provided the possibility of undertaking preventive actions aimed at diminishing the impact of disease derived from inherited and environmental factors, he said.


He expressed the satisfaction of Cuba for the evident continuity between the current report and the one presented last year, which he said was also of high quality.  He stressed the importance of continuing to strengthen the cooperation among the Scientific Committee and the different agencies and institutions of the United Nations system, including the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and UNEP.  Such collaboration should result in greater benefits for mankind.  The elimination of the potential dangers resulting from ionizing radiation could only be achieved through serious cooperation on the peaceful uses of atomic energy.


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For information media. Not an official record.