Remarks at a UN General Assembly Special Commemorative Meeting in Observance of the 35th Anniversary of the Chornobyl Disaster

Ambassador Patrick Kennedy
Senior Advisor for UN Management and Reform
New York, New York
April 26, 2021


Mr. President, Excellencies,

Today is the 35th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear accident, a tragedy that demonstrated the Soviet Union’s disregard for nuclear safety and the safety of its own citizens. I wish to recognize, in particular, the representatives of Ukraine and Belarus, whose people were most seriously affected by the disaster.

We gather here today to commemorate the great, selfless, personal bravery and incredible dedication of the emergency workers who were first to move to contain the disaster on that fateful day in Chornobyl, April 26, 1986. These heroes struggled valiantly to contain the nuclear fallout and to mitigate the catastrophe. They knew that this struggle would result in their own certain deaths. Their sacrifice is a powerful call for us to remember. It is a powerful call for Chornobyl not to be forgotten. We remember those who suffered the long-term effects of this accident. We recall those who were resettled from their homes, notably those from the cities of Pripyat and Chornobyl, homes to which they will never return.

In remembrance of this sacrifice, the international community, including the United States, has come together in solidarity to work to return to an environmentally safe and stable condition the site of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster. Joining together in support of the Chornobyl Shelter Fund founded in 1997, 45 countries and institutions contributed nearly $2 billion that was used to make the site safe and construct the New Safe Containment. This unique structure, said to be the largest moveable structure in history, now stands over Unit Number Four of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

In the cooperative work to ecologically and safely secure the site of the disaster, the work of the Government of Ukraine deserves special recognition. While work still needs to be done, including removal of radioactive rubble, the New Safe Containment is a notable milestone for the international community and an accomplishment of international solidarity. It is also a memorial to the dead and the heroes of Chornobyl.

May we never forget.

Thank you.