|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
Observance of International Day
against Nuclear Tests (AM)
Legal Prohibition Only Way to Realize World Free of Nuclear Testing, Weapons,
Deputy Secretary-General Says during Observance of International Day
Make Test-Ban Treaty Fully Effective, Urges General Assembly President
Stressing that the voluntary moratoriums of nuclear-weapon States were no substitute for a legal prohibition, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro today urged Governments that had not yet done so to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and bolster other efforts to create a world free of nuclear testing and nuclear weapons.
“It is time for this Treaty to enter into force,” she told the General Assembly’s informal meeting in observance of the International Day against Nuclear Tests. “Achievement of this goal will further reinforce the growing opposition to nuclear weapons throughout the world.” That was a top priority of the Secretary-General, Ms. Migiro added, emphasizing that the fate of global efforts to achieve it would affect everyone, and have an impact on the planet’s future.
The International Day, observed on 29 August, also marked the twentieth anniversary since the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear weapons test site by the Government of Kazakhstan. Almost 500 nuclear-weapons tests at the site had exposed civilians to the harmful effects of nuclear radiation and caused widespread environmental degradation and economic loss, she said, expressing full support for efforts by the Kazakh Government and people to overcome those effects.
General Assembly President Joseph Deiss ( Switzerland) also urged Governments to sign the Treaty so that it could become fully operative. He also encouraged States, civil society, academia and the media to engage in celebrations of the International Day while enhancing public awareness and education about the effects of nuclear testing.
Ermek Kosherbayev, Deputy Governor of East Kazakhstan, said the closure of Semipalatinsk had led to the shutting down of test sites in Nevada, in the United States, Lop Nor in China and Novaya Zemlya in the Russian Federation. The Kazakh Government had spent some $550 million since 1999 in compensation to people affected by Semipalatinsk, but those living nearby continued to suffer, he said, citing the high local death rate, low life expectancy and high incidence of cancer.
During the sixty-sixth General Assembly session, Kazakhstan would present a draft resolution on strengthening international cooperation and coordination of activities to rehabilitate Semipalatinsk’s population and environment, he continued, calling upon Member States to support and co-sponsor that text. He also requested monetary assistance to bolster the Semipalatinsk region’s economy, health and infrastructure, noting that $23 million was needed to create a modern radiation assessment centre, in addition to $1.34 million required to modernize the overall infrastructure and technical equipment of the Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology.
Geoffrey Shaw, Director and Representative of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the United Nations in New York, said the Agency would continue its efforts to help the Kazakh Government assess the radiological contamination of affected territories. It planned to launch a technical cooperation project in 2012 that would support radio-ecological studies by providing a sound basis for predicting the long-term behaviour of radionuclides and helping to assess their current and future impacts.
Enkhtsetseg Ochir ( Mongolia), Chair of the Assembly’s Second Committee (Economic and Financial), said that several United Nations agencies had provided substantial assistance to help the Kazakh population suffering the effects of nuclear fallout from Semipalatinsk. However, more help was needed to address challenges in several priority areas, including radiation safety, socio-economic development, health care, raising public awareness of nuclear-testing risks, and strengthening efforts by non-governmental organizations to carry out socio-economic initiatives.
The human suffering caused by nuclear testing raised fundamental questions, she continued, emphasizing that military and political considerations were not more important than people’s health and well-being. Nor could nuclear activity be justified when it caused cancer or birth defects in children, she added. “The early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty is not a choice, it is an imperative.”
Echoing those sentiments, several speakers expressed their commitment to the Treaty, saying that nuclear testing not only harmed human health and the environment, it also created distrust among nations. Some delegates, such as the representative of Bangladesh, said it was unjustifiable to spend $1.5 trillion annually on weapons when developing countries, particularly least developed countries, were struggling to realize the Millennium Development Goals. Others, such as the representatives of Norway and the European Union, highlighted their respective financial contributions towards helping to strengthen the Treaty’s capacity, including its monitoring and verification systems.
Annika Thunborg, Spokesperson and Head of Public Information, and Representative of the Executive Secretary to the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, said that between 1945 and 1996, more than 2,000 nuclear tests had been conducted in over 60 different locations, poisoning the environment to the extent that future generations would continue to live with the legacy of nuclear testing for centuries and even millennia to come.
Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, called on Governments to redouble efforts to end nuclear testing, refrain from pursuing new types of nuclear weapons and halt the development of new ones, while paying in full their assessments to the Preparatory Commission and helping to complete the international nuclear monitoring system. They should also improve national and global programmes to better understand and responsibly address the health and environmental damage caused by past nuclear testing.
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