“Semipalatinsk: From Rehabilitation to Development”
Prominent academics, scientists, international officials, diplomats and activists convened in Astana, Kazakhstan, on 26 August 2010, on the eve of the first global celebration of the United Nations-designated International Day against Nuclear Tests (29 August), to issue a strong call to the international community to take more resolute steps towards banning nuclear tests.
The delegates gathered for an international conference entitled “Semipalatinsk: From Rehabilitation to Development” and jointly organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan and the United Nations. It focused on co-operation between Kazakhstan and international organizations in overcoming the aftermath of nearly 500 Soviet nuclear tests in the Semipalatinsk region that affected more than 1.5 million people. Adopted on 2 December 2009, Resolution 64/35 of the United Nations General Assembly’s sixty-fourth session designated 29 August as the day for celebrating the global effort to prevent nuclear tests from happening again. It also commemorated the anniversary of shutting down one of the world’s largest nuclear test sites at Semipalatinsk, which took place following a decree from Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 1991.
The conference agenda covered the political aspects of ending nuclear testing and getting rid of nuclear weapons, and particularly the socio-economic and environmental challenges of and prospects for the Semipalatinsk region’s development.
The speakers included:
• Tibor Tóth, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization;
• Werner Burkart, Deputy Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);
• Miroslav Jenca, Head of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia;
• Kori Udovički, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Director for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States;
• Olzhas Suleimenov, the founder and leader of the “Nevada-Semey” international anti-nuclear movement and currently Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to UNESCO.
Miroslav Jenca read out a message from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in which he said: “Today, with Kazakhstan having banished nuclear weapons and joined in creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia, Semipalatinsk has become a powerful symbol of hope. It tells us that a world free of nuclear weapons is achievable.”
Calling upon the international community to reflect deeply on the consequences of the nuclear weapons tests in Semipalatinsk and around the world, Ban Ki-moon stated: “The better this dark era of history is understood, the brighter will be the prospects for achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. It is time to close all nuclear sites and address the harm they have caused. It is time we brought the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty into force. It is time for all to seek the security of a world without nuclear weapons. We cannot pass these challenges to succeeding generations. We must each do our part to build a safer, more secure world today.”
The conference resulted in participants adopting an Appeal to the world community, as well as a new joint programme and action plan for the development of the Semipalatinsk region.
In the appeal, the participants noted that the United Nations announcement of 29 August as the International Day against Nuclear Tests will contribute to nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and a nuclear test ban worldwide, and facilitate achieving a nuclear-weapons-free world.