A place where time has stood still – inside an abandoned school in the Exclusion Zone in Belarus. Study books and copy books with unfinished exercises remain intact where they were left by pupils who never returned to pick them up. Photo: Siarhiej Leskiec for UNDP Belarus


The United Nations and Chernobyl

Since 2004, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has served as the United Nations Coordinator of International Cooperation on Chernobyl. The Inter-Agency Task Force on Chernobyl, comprised of relevant international agencies under the leadership of UNDP and the three affected countries, constitutes the coordination mechanism for international cooperation.

The Chernobyl-related activities of the United Nations system and international stakeholders are organized around the following priorities:

  • Community-based development; 
  • Provision of information to affected communities;
  • Infrastructure;
  • Health;
  • Radiation mitigation and standard setting;
  • Nuclear safety and radioactive waste management;
  • Environmental sustainability;
  • Disaster risk reduction and early warning.

Throughout the years, the United Nations has continued to evaluate the effects of the Chernobyl accident, the support provided to improve public and environmental safety and the recovery of the areas affected by the accident. The experience to date shows that Chernobyl recovery efforts must be linked to the 2030 Agenda and be fully aligned with the national plans for sustainable development of Belarus and Ukraine. Addressing the complexities of the interrelated challenges posed by the nuclear accident requires breaking down the sectoral silos and applying a holistic and systemic approach to ensure that no one is left behind. The United Nations agencies are fully committed to further strengthening strategic partnerships, building alliances, mobilizing funding and attracting financing for the development of the Chernobyl-affected territories.

Communities and local public authorities play a key role in overcoming the consequences of the Chernobyl accident. Fostering collaboration among all relevant stakeholders, promoting dialogue and partnerships among the affected communities and building trust between the authorities and citizens are key prerequisites for swift recovery and resilience.

The international community and affected countries should continue to enhance and change the perception of Chernobyl-affected regions to that of “recovering regions”. To continue the sustainable development of the recovering regions, programmes should be focused on the development of local entrepreneurship and tourism, the creation of new jobs, the transition of the technologies of local economies to green technologies, the inclusion of vulnerable groups in local development processes, the promotion of healthy lifestyles and transboundary cooperation for the conservation of ecosystems in Palyessye.

The United Nations agencies and the international community should continue to improve the visibility of the results achieved in the Chernobylaffected communities and regions for advocacy purposes. Lessons learned from the Chernobyl response should be integrated into nuclear emergency planning and preparedness programmes.

Last, the Governments of Belarus and Ukraine, United Nations agencies and partners ought to explore innovative financing mechanisms and partnerships to secure investments for regions still requiring financial support.

Recovering and transforming Chernobyl remains a daunting long-term challenge. It is a tremendous undertaking, which will only be accomplished through collective actions by all partners, at all levels. The United Nations family remains firmly committed to the full recovery and sustainable development of the affected region through innovative approaches, in collaboration with the Governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, and to ensuring that the legacy of Chernobyl will be a safer environment for the region and for all people.

Source: Report of the Secretary-General "Persistent legacy of the Chernobyl disaster" (A/74/461)