EFFECTS OF ATOMIC RADIATION, NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORY OF TOKELAU ADDRESSED IN DRAFT TEXTS APPROVED BY FOURTH COMMITTEE

15 October 2002
GA/SPD/243

EFFECTS OF ATOMIC RADIATION, NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORY OF TOKELAU ADDRESSED IN DRAFT TEXTS APPROVED BY FOURTH COMMITTEE

15/10/2002
Press Release
GA/SPD/243


Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Fourth Committee

11th Meeting (PM)


EFFECTS OF ATOMIC RADIATION, NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORY OF TOKELAU


ADDRESSED IN DRAFT TEXTS APPROVED BY FOURTH COMMITTEE


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved two draft resolutions this afternoon, as it concluded its general debate on the effects of atomic radiation and resumed consideration of the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Tokelau.


By the terms of the draft resolution on the effects of atomic radiation, orally revised and approved without a vote, the General Assembly would urge the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to strengthen present funding for the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, pursuant to Assembly resolution 56/50, so that body could successfully discharge the responsibilities and mandate entrusted to it.


The General Assembly would, by other terms, request UNEP to continue providing support for the Scientific Committee and for the dissemination of its findings to the General Assembly, the scientific community and the public.  It would also welcome the readiness of Member States to provide the Scientific Committee with relevant information on the effects of ionizing radiation in affected areas.


By the terms of the draft resolution on the question of Tokelau, also orally revised and approved without a vote, the General Assembly would approve the report of the United Nations Mission to Tokelau in 2002, noting that a study to review Tokelau's options for future self-determination is recommended in the report.  [During its consideration of decolonization matters, the Committee had deferred action on the draft, pending further consultations.]


By further terms, the Assembly would call upon New Zealand -- the administering Power -- and Tokelau to consider developing an education programme to inform Tokelau's population on the nature of self-determination, including the three options of integration, free association and independence, so it is better prepared to face a future decision on the matter.  The Assembly would also call upon the administering Power and United Nations agencies to assist Tokelau as it further develops its economy and governance structures in the context of its ongoing constitutional evolution.


The General Assembly would also acknowledge Tokelau's need for continued reassurance in light of cultural adjustments that are taking place with the strengthening of its capacity for self-government.  Given the fact that local


resources cannot adequately cover the material side of self-determination, it would also acknowledge the ongoing responsibility of Tokelau's external partners to assist the Territory in balancing its desire to be self-reliant with its need for external assistance.


Speaking in the general debate on the effects of atomic radiation, the representative of the Marshall Islands noted that the harmful results of atomic tests conducted in her country more than 50 years ago continued to plague its population and environment.  Also addressing the effects of atomic exposure, the representative of Iraq said that Iraqi population, in particular children and women, suffered from numerous diseases as a result of the use of depleted uranium weapons during the 1991 war against his country.


Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Indonesia, on behalf of the Association of

South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Burkina Faso and Pakistan also made statements.


The representatives of Israel, Lebanon and Syria spoke in the exercise of the right of reply.


The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m Friday, 18 October, to begin its debate on peacekeeping operations.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to continue its debate on the effects of atomic radiation and to take up a related draft resolution.  [For background information, see press release GA/SPD/242 of 11 October.] 


The Committee was also expected to act on a draft resolution on the question of Tokelau.  The Committee had decided to defer action on that text pending further consultations at the conclusion of its debate on decolonization matters on 4 October.  [For background information, see press releases GA/SPD/238 of

4 October and GA/SPD/235 of 1 October.] 


The draft resolution on the effects of atomic radiation (document A/C.4/57/L.7) would have the Assembly 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 the United Nations Environment Programme (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 7 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.


By the terms of the draft resolution on the question of Tokelau (document A/C.4.57/L.6), the Assembly would note that, as a case study pointing to successful cooperation for decolonization, Tokelau has wider significance for the United Nations as it seeks to complete its work on decolonization.  It would note that Territory's desire to move at its own pace towards an act of self-determination.  The Assembly would also note the special challenge inherent in the situation of Tokelau -- among the smallest of the Non-Self-Governing Territories -- and how the exercise of a Territory's inalienable right to self-determination may be brought closer, as in Tokelau, by meeting that challenge in an innovative way.


By further terms of the text, the Assembly would acknowledge Tokelau's goal to return authority to its traditional leadership and its wish to provide that leadership with the necessary support to carry out its functions in the contemporary world.  It would also acknowledge progress made towards that goal under the Modern House of Tokelau project and Tokelau's view that that project is seen by its people as the means to achieving their act of self-determination.  Further, the Assembly would acknowledge Tokelau's initiative in devising a strategic economic development plan for the period 2002-2004 to advance its capacity for self-government. 


Also by the text, the Assembly would note that Tokelau has established a local public service employer which enabled the New Zealand State Services Commissioner to withdraw from his role of employer of the Tokelau Public Service as of 30 June 2001.   It would note that the Constitution of a self-governing Tokelau would continue to develop as a part of the building of the Modern House of Tokelau. 


Further, the Assembly would also acknowledge Tokelau's need for continued reassurance given the cultural adjustments that are taking place with the strengthening of its capacity of self-government and, given that local resources cannot adequately cover the material side of self-determination, the ongoing responsibility of Tokelau's external partners to assist Tokelau in balancing its desire to be self-reliant with its need for external assistance.  It would also acknowledge the partner's desire to reaffirm their commitment to each other and to efforts being made -- in the context of the draft programme of work for Tokelau -- to identify principles underpinning the New Zealand/Tokelau relationship with a view to establishing a dynamic basis for future development. 


By other terms of the text, the Assembly would approve the report of the United Nations Mission to Tokelau, 2002, and note that a study to review the options for Tokelau's future self-determination is recommended in the report.  It would further note the willingness expressed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to assist in that regard upon the Territory's request.


Also according to the draft, the Assembly would call upon New Zealand and Tokelau to consider developing an education programme to inform Tokelau's population on the nature of self-determination, including the three options of integration, free association and independence, so it is better prepared to face a future decision on the matter.  It would request the Special Committee to provide all available assistance in that regard.  The Assembly would also call upon the administering Power and United Nations agencies to continue to provide assistance to Tokelau as it further develops its economy and governance structures in the context of its ongoing constitutional evolution.


Statements


KEYOKA KABUA (Marshall Islands) said the issue of atomic radiation was important to her delegation.  The people and environment of the Marshall Islands had suffered greatly as a result of nuclear tests conducted by the United States in that country in the 1940s and 1950s.  More than 50 years after the first atomic bombs were detonated, the people of the Marshall Islands were still suffering from ongoing health effects.  The food chain contained dangerously high radiation levels.  Contaminated lands had affected development.  The Marshall Islands continued to suffer from the legacy of toxic nuclear waste, which posed challenges far beyond what its financial and scientific capability could meet. 


As a victim of nuclear testing, the Marshall Islands fully supported the Committee's activities, she said.  That body had contributed to the study of the effects of atomic radiation from man-made and natural sources, and the studies produced benefited all Member States.  The Scientific Committee's new programme of work had been endorsed by the General Assembly.  So that it could proceed with that programme, the General Assembly should reaffirm its support by directing the UNEP to provide the Committee with adequate funding.


MOCHAMAD S. HIDAYAT (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said ASEAN attached great importance to the Scientific Committee's activities.  The ASEAN supported the Committee's work, which addressed the sources of exposure, including natural, occupational and medical.  The ASEAN also supported the formulation of basic safety standards, which benefited all developing countries, especially the ASEAN countries. 


Comprehensive knowledge of exposure sources would be beneficial to efforts to protect the environment, promote safety in the workplace and reduce the risks in medical treatment, he said.  Such knowledge should lead to the development of affordable technologies.  Another source of exposure that deserved attention was depleted uranium.  While it had peaceful applications, depleted uranium has also toxic and exposure could occur in the same way as to natural uranium.  The ASEAN encouraged the Scientific Committee to conduct further studies in key areas that would allow better health risk assessments to be made.


In a world that was increasingly reliant on nuclear energy, he recognized the importance of safety standards for the protection of the environment.  That included information-sharing on the potential risk involved with the operation of nuclear power plants and the implementation of measures to ensure safety.  He hoped that the Scientific Committee and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would play complimentary roles.  He, too, was concerned about insufficient funding and requested UNEP to continue providing support to the Committee.


POUSSI SAWADOGO (Burkina Faso), noting that the Chernobyl tragedy continued to haunt the world's memory, stressed that the report of the Scientific Committee had emphasized that the main sources of radiation, such as potassium and radon, among others, continued to frighten mankind and the non-peaceful uses of nuclear power was damaging.  He called on United Nations Member States and allied organizations, experts and universities to cooperate with the Scientific Committee to combat the harmful effects of atomic radiation, in line with United Nations General Assembly resolutions.


But, he said, the work of the Scientific Committee could only be fruitful if it had sufficient means to carry out its work effectively.  He hoped that it would soon have the means to carry out its work and requested that the UNEP provide appropriate support.  The well-being of mankind was at stake, he said.


IBRAHIM ASSAF (Lebanon) said the first task attributed to the Scientific Committee by the General Assembly in 1955 was to study the sources of nuclear radiation.  That mandate was of the utmost importance, as it related to the protection of the environment and human health.  The Scientific Committee had proven that it was up to the task entrusted to it.  Some types of natural radiation could be difficult to control.  There was no doubt, however, that the effects of man-made radiation could be controlled or negated.  While nuclear energy had peaceful applications, he was concerned about radiation occurring from nuclear-weapon tests and nuclear accidents.


He said the Middle East faced the threat of nuclear accidents, since Israel was still defying the will of the international community by refusing to subject its nuclear facilities to the IAEA.  It, thus, increased the possibility that radioactive emissions could threaten neighbouring States.  He renewed his call for Israel to respect Security Council resolution 487 (1981) as well as General Assembly resolution that called for that country to subject its facilities to the IAEA.  Also, Lebanon was concerned about the financial difficulties facing the Scientific Committee and urged UNEP to support its budget. 


NASIEF JASIM MOHAMED (Iraq) said his country attached particular importance to the work of the Scientific Committee.  The Scientific Committee's report mentioned the dangers threatening children, because their parents were exposed to radiation.  Exposure to radiation caused cancer and other diseases.  Iraqi citizens and children suffered from the risks of atomic radiation, due to the use of depleted uranium missiles by United States forces during the 1991 war against Iraq.  The effects of exposure also affected several members of the United States forces participating in that war. 


Reports of various specialized agencies had noted the health dangers in Iraq, particularly surrounding areas destroyed by depleted uranium weapons, he said.  Iraqi children had suffered the most from the effects of depleted uranium, stricken with leukemia, bone cancer and fetal deformation.  A high percentage of women suffered from breast cancer and other rare diseases.  The unjust blockade had deprived Iraq of access to the medications needed to treat those diseases. 


Iraq had asked the IAEA to help the country rid itself of hazardous pollution from the use of hundreds of tons of depleted uranium missiles, he continued.  Iraq had not received a positive response to its request.  As a new war threatened to be unleashed on Iraq, no one knew how many bombs would be dropped or how much depleted uranium would be used.  Before concluding he also expressed his concern with the need to improve the financial situation of the Scientific Committee.


ELASHI Jalal (Libya) called on all industrialized nations to maintain safety standards and stop expanding nuclear reactors, adding that nuclear pollution and exposure was an important preoccupation of the times and its threat was a danger to humanity, for current and future generations.  The international community must redouble its efforts, because nuclear radiation exposure threatened the peace of the human community.  He called on the international community to compel Israel to allow the IAEA to inspect its nuclear facilities.  Israel had thus far refused such inspection.


The real threat facing humanity came from the hundreds of nuclear warheads held by certain countries, he said.  Also, he called on all international agencies to cooperate on ways to manage nuclear waste.  He thanked the Scientific Committee for its report and called for UNEP's support, so the Committee could implement the programme for which it was established.


LOUAY FALLOUH (Syria) said he was concerned with the Scientific Committee's lack of financial funding.  A solution must be found as soon as possible, so that the Committee could properly discharge its duties.  It was Syria's policy to use atomic radiation for peaceful purposes only.  Developing countries should receive assistance in the development of the peaceful uses of atomic energy.


Syria had called for the elimination of nuclear arsenals, he said.  In 1974, Syria had agreed to submit its system to IAEA safeguards and had called for the Middle East to be a nuclear-free zone.  The equation remained out of balance, as long as Israel maintained nuclear arsenals and was outside of the non-proliferation treaty and the IAEA safeguards.  Israel threatened to use its weapons, in defiance of the international community.  The risk of nuclear infiltration was a danger for neighbouring States.  The international community must exert pressure on Israel to place its nuclear installations under IAEA safeguards.  The threat of ionizing radiation presented a danger for the entire region.


TARIQ S. CHAUDHRY (Pakistan) said his delegation was pleased to co-sponsor the draft resolution.  The Scientific Committee was the principal international body in the field and its reports were widely respected and used for developing scientific standards.  He was concerned, however, that due to budgetary deficiencies, the Committee had not been able to meet in its regular session in 2002.  He hoped that the budgetary request recently submitted to UNEP would be duly addressed, so that the Scientific Committee could continue to work effectively.


Pakistan fully supported the programme of work adopted by the Scientific Committee at its April 2001 meeting, he said.  Regarding the "heredity effects of radiation”, Pakistan was assured by the Scientific Committee’s in-depth study that radiation exposure did not appear to cause hereditary effects in human beings.  There was a need to look at emerging data, particularly with regard to DNA mutations.


While praising the Scientific Committee’s collaboration with scientists from Member States affected by the Chernobyl accident, he continued to support its intention to proceed on its studies on the radiological health effects of the Chernobyl accident, with a view to complete and publish its findings by 2005.


Action on Drafts


The Committee first took up the draft resolution on the effects of atomic radiation (document A/C.4/57/L.7). 


The representative of Brazil informed the Committee that several delegations had joined as co-sponsors of the text.  He also introduced an oral amendment to the text.


The representative of Ukraine thanked Brazil for coordinating the work of the draft and stated her country's desire to be added to the list of co-sponsors.


The representative of Belarus also commended the efforts of the representative of Brazil and informed the Committee of his delegation’s wish to co-sponsor the draft resolution.


Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the draft resolution, as orally amended.

The Committee then took up the draft resolution on the question of Tokelau (document A/C.1/57/L.6).


Introducing the revised draft resolution, the representative of Saint Lucia said the text had been updated to welcome the dispatch of the United Nations Mission to the Territory in 2002.  It also noted that the Fourth Committee had examined the report of that Mission.  He noted an amendment to the text.


The representative of Cuba noted several differences between the English, Spanish and French versions of the text.


The representative of Zambia asked whether the report of the Mission to Tokelau had been issued.


LESLIE WILKINSON, Committee Secretary, said that the Committee had decided to take note and consider the issue as a conference room paper in English, on the understanding that the report would appear in all languages at a later date.  She had not seen the report in all languages.  Because the report had been submitted only at the end of September, there had been a problem in having it translated into all the official languages.


The representative of Côte d'Ivoire noted his support to the amendments read out by the representative of Saint Lucia.


The Committee then approved the draft, as orally revised, without a vote.


Rights of Reply


The representative of Israel, speaking in the exercise of the right of reply, said that the Government of Israel viewed the claims regarding radioactive contamination from Israel and similar accusations as baseless, false and politically motivated.  There had been no nuclear accidents in Israel.  The Israeli Ministry of the Environment conducted surveys to determine environmental levels of radioactivity, but had not determined any significant findings of radiation.


The representative of Lebanon said it was true that there had been no atomic emissions from Israeli nuclear facilities.  That did not mean, however, that there was no possibility of future emissions.  Asking Israel to subject its nuclear facilities to the IAEA's safety measures was just a beginning for the prevention of future nuclear accidents.  He had based his statement on Security Council resolutions calling for Israel to subject its nuclear facilities to the safeguards of the IAEA.  It was the United Nations that was asking Israel to comply.  If Israel insisted on not subjecting its facilities to a system of safety measures, it must respond to the international community.


The representative of Syria, also speaking in the exercise of the right of reply, said that Israel's statement was full of mistruth.  The fears of ionizing radiation were well founded and real.  Recent reviews had revealed infiltration from Israeli nuclear plants.  Newspapers had reported that in Hebrew.  Nuclear power plants did not emit French perfumes, but rather danger and death.


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For information media. Not an official record.