Government of Japan
Tokyo International Conference on Semipalatinsk
6-7 September 1999
Co-sponsored by: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
SUMMARY by the Chairmen
In recognition of the grave legacy and consequences of 40 years of nuclear testing upon the people, environment, and economy of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan, an International Conference was organised in Tokyo on 6 and 7 September, 1999.
The Conference was organised and chaired jointly by the Government of Japan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with high level participation from the Government of Kazakhstan. The meeting was enhanced by the co-sponsorship of four other UN organisations and specialised agencies: OCHA, IAEA, UNICEF and UNFPA.
Reflecting international interest, a total of more than 200 persons representing about 80 organisations participated in the conference, representing 24 governments, 12 multilateral organisations, including the co-sponsors as well as the World Bank, UNESCO, WHO, FAO, EBRD, EU, OSCE and NATO. Six international NGOs and 38 Japanese organisations, institutions and agencies also participated. There was particularly strong interest demonstrated by the involvement of community and professional leaders from Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Semipalatinsk. The conference also attracted the interest of the international media which has already raised awareness about Semipalatinsk and the Tokyo Conference.
The Tokyo Conference was one of the principle follow-up actions after a special Report was submitted by the Secretary-General to the UN General Assembly (UNGA), in November 1998. This Report assessed the humanitarian and development needs of the Semipalatinsk region and its people, proposing a programme of action. On the occasion of the UNGA's consideration of the Secretary-General's Report, the Government of Japan offered to host an international conference to consider ways of taking the Secretary-General's Report and its recommendations forward.
Welcoming the Secretary-General's Report, which had been initiated by a UNGA Resolution in 1997, a UNGA 1998 Resolution was unanimously adopted on that occasion. UN member states stressed the need for greater international attention, cooperation and coordination in responding to the circumstances of the Semipalatinsk Polygon; urged the international community to share its knowledge and experience of these problems; and sought the mobilisation of support for those affected by, and cumulatively exposed to, decades of radiation.
At its opening, the Conference attentively received the messages of Prime Minister of Japan Mr. Obuchi, President of Kazakhstan Mr. Nazarbaev, and the Administrator of UNDP, Mr. Malloch Brown. Prime Minister Obuchi emphasized the importance of solving the problems in Semipalatinsk from the viewpoint of Human Security. They drew attention to the significant and dreadful consequences of Semipalatinsk during the period of nuclear development and testing, and the importance of Semipalatinsk (along with Nagasaki and Hiroshima) as symbols about the need for peace.
In addition, the Japanese and Kazakhstan Ministers of Foreign Affairs warmly recognised their close bilateral relations. They also acknowledged the prior support of Japan and other international partners to the affected population and the Semipalatinsk region. Finally, they also invited the international community and participants at the Tokyo Conference to give due attention and to consider additional support. Dr. Keizo Takemi, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan, in his Keynote speech, underscored that Japan was the only country that had suffered from nuclear bombing and cannot be indifferent to the issue of nuclear weapons. In addition, he reemphasized the perspective of Human Security in addressing these problems. The UNDP Assistant Administrator described the relative importance and justification for a strong international response and explained how the highly prioritised proposals for action emerged from a participatory international process.
The presentations and deliberations of the first day,
devoted to the health and medical care of the population of the Semipalatinsk
region, conveyed three important messages aimed at improving effectiveness:
-- there is an urgent need for improving the scientific-based evidence on which to refine priorities and take actions;
-- the need for transparency and accountability, which include an improved communication strategy and involvement with the public, as well as better coordination of all national and international actors;
-- handling the health consequences of people affected from nuclear testing should be seen as part of the broad public health strategy and reforms in Kazakhstan, and should be balanced with other health needs in the region including mother and child health, environmental health, mental health, reproductive health and communicable disease prevention.
For its part, the Government of Japan will study assisting the establishment of screening and treatment systems in order to improve medical infrastructure for the affected population, together with the collection of basic data and the transfer of knowhow about administrative measures. Finally, Japan agreed with other participants about the importance of "ownership" and coordination by the Kazakhstan Government in addressing the problems.
On the second day of the Conference, attention was focused on the full range of needs reflected in the 38 projects prioritised by international and Kazakhstani experts for the UN Secretary General's Report. A wide range of participants were involved in the deliberations which gave attention to the following:
a) the need to complete a comprehensive radiological assessment of the Semipalatinsk region; also to strengthen monitoring;
b) support to rehabilitate the economy in order to improve prospects for self-help and sustained recovery for both urban and rural populations with special attention to those measures which support small business development;
c) humanitarian assistance for the poor and most vulnerable population group in the region;
d) the necessity to strengthen the capacities of government and other local institutions, particularly including Kazakhstani NGOs, so that they can better administer programmes for action and ensure their impact on the most affected population;
e) the necessity to enable people to have access to information to avoid risks, reduce psycho-social insecurity, receive guidance, and to enhance their knowledge for action.
The presentations by the Kazakhstani officials and participants, and the inputs of experts with direct experience, was welcomed. Several participants concurred that the programme for action correctly focuses on the provision of immediate and direct assistance to the affected populations. The other components for study and applied research to improve targeting and mitigation efforts were also regarded as well justified to address the continuing needs. Capacity building and information support services were also judged as a reasonable, smaller, but very desirable component.
Following these presentations and discussions, many Conference participants took the opportunity to reaffirm their overall concurrence with the priority programme, its justification, scope and magnitude. About 30 delegations expressed their appreciation about the conference and its organisers, and conveyed their overall support for the priority programme of action. Eighteen made specific commitments or confirmed pledges of assistance. More than $20 million was pledged from Japan, the World Bank, GBGM, and several United Nations organisations and agencies. Japan announced a special contribution of $1 million through the Japanese/UNDP Funds.
The Kazakhstan delegation's leaders, representing the people and Government, expressed their profound gratitude for the understanding and responsiveness of the international community, and to the hosts of the Conference. They also elaborated on how the incremental humanitarian, rehabilitation and development assistance would be utilized, coordinated and managed in order to have its intended benefit for the affected people in the region. They also offered to report on the overall progress and consult with interested partners in the year 2000, prior to and also in conjunction with the Report to the UN General Assembly. At the conclusion, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister expressed the Kazakhstani Government's gratitude to the Japanese Government and people, to the UNDP and UN co-sponsors, and to all participants at the Tokyo Conference.
The Tokyo International Conference on Semipalatinsk concluded successfully by responding to the priority needs of the affected population, and to the spirit and the practical intent of the UN General Assembly Resolutions.
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