New York

25 April 2011

Secretary-General's message to the Exhibition "25 Years after Chernobyl: Cooperation for Sustainable Development" [delivered by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs]

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

I thank the organizers for bringing us this powerful exhibit.

I have just returned from a trip to the site of the Chernobyl disaster. In the eerie quiet, I could imagine the horror twenty-five years ago. The deadly radiation, the courageous fire-fighters and the damage that would affect generations to come.

The scenes that played out in my mind are captured in this exhibit. It tells a story of despair but also hope. We see the haunting image of a child's doll wearing a gas mask, but also heartening photos of the area's children today, embarking on a new life.

The bridge from despair to hope is built with solidarity. That, too, is depicted in these photographs of international conferences, development agencies in action, and communities working together. In the background, the United Nations and our partners are carrying out activities that span the past and future, from preserving the cultural heritage of the affected region to caring for the children who will someday be its leaders.

The United Nations will continue to implement our Acton Plan on Chernobyl, supporting the Decade of Recovery and Sustainable Development proclaimed by the General Assembly for the years 2006 to 2016.

At the same time, we recognize nuclear safety as a global issue. Twenty-five years ago, the Chernobyl disaster taught us that nuclear radiation respects no borders. Today, the Fukushima disaster in Japan raises popular fears and difficult questions.

Today's solemn milestone comes at a critical moment. I am determined to keep nuclear safety at the top of the international agenda. By working to ensure that nuclear power is used peacefully and safely, we can honour the memory of Chernobyl's victims and its lost heroes.

Thank you.