26 Apr 2019

Venue: International Environment House I | Room 3

Organization: Geneva Environment Network

On 8 December 2016 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 26 April - the day of the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986 - as International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day. The General Assembly invites all Member States, relevant agencies of the United Nations system and other international organizations, as well as civil society, to observe the day.

A discussion on the aftermaths of two major nuclear accidents and some of the current challenges toop place at the international Environment House, on Friday 26 April 2019.

An explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986 spread a radioactive cloud over large parts of the Soviet Union, now the territories of Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Nearly 8.4 million people in the three countries were exposed to the radiation. In its resolution, the General Assembly recognized that three decades after the disaster there remains persistent serious long-term consequences and that the affected communities and territories are experiencing continuing related needs.

Mahir Aliyev is Regional Coordinator for Europe of the UN Environment Programme’s Europe Office, where, among other duties, he runs the environment and security, international waters, and regional and country coordination work. He also represents UN Environment in inter-agency cooperation, including in the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Chernobyl. Mahir talked about UN Environment Programme activities in the Chernobyl region.

Lesya Nicolayeva is a Consultant for the UN Environment Programme’s Europe Office. Lesya presented Polesie and Chernobyl as a climate and security hotspot.

A 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit Japan in March 2011, which was followed by a tsunami that inundated everything along the eastern coastline around Fukushima Prefecture. Subsequently, an explosion at one of the reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant leaked radioactive material. Three of the reactors failed, and hundreds of thousands were evacuated from the area. Eight years after the nuclear meltdown, contamination and exposure to radiation remain a hazard for workers trying to make the area safe.

Ms Sonoda was living in Fukushima, Japan with her husband, Geoff Read, and child when the Fukushima nuclear disaster happened in March 2011. Until then they enjoyed the fantastic natural environment and strong local community there, but they had to evacuate to protect their child. She is one of the plaintiffs in lawsuits against the Japanese government and Tepco, was a speaker for the UPR pre-session 2017 and the IDP’s side event 2018. She and her family talked about the violation of human rights and ongoing environmental damage in the aftermath of Fukushima, and presented joint portraits made with children living in Fukushima at the time of the disaster; stressing the importance of local voices and linking Fukushima with Chernobyl and future nuclear disasters.

Following these testimonies, Franziska Hirsch, Secretary to the UNECE Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents, presented on the Convention and its relevance for the prevention of technological accidents and the mitigation of their consequences. While the Industrial Accidents Convention was a regional instruments and its scope excluded nuclear accidents, its principles and guidance materials (incl. on mine tailings containing uranium waste) were applicable and available for use worldwide, and helped achieve technological disaster risk reduction in line with the UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) was also mentioned, a legal instrument open for accession by countries worldwide. The Convention’s principles have been reflected in other treaties, such as article 9 of the Industrial Accidents Convention, stipulating access to information, public participation and access to justice with respect to industrial accident prevention and preparedness.


Welcome & Introduction
Diana RIZZOLIO, Coordinator, Geneva Environment Network

33 Years after Chernobyl
Mahir ALIYEV, Regional Coordinator, UN Environment Europe Office
Lesya NIKOLAYEVA, Consultant, UN Environment Europe Office

8 Years after Fukushima
Ms SONODA, former inhabitant of Fukushima
Geoff READ, former inhabitant of Fukushima

Preventing industrial accidents
Franziska HIRSCH, Secretary, UNECE Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents


Closing remarks
Hisashi SAITO, iuventum e.V.



The event was live on Facebook.