REMARKS: Ambassador H.E Junior Aini on International Day against Nuclear Tests

Statement by the His Excellency Junior Aini, Ambassador of the Republic of Marshall Islands to the Republic of Fiji

Delivered on International Day against Nuclear Tests

29 August 2023

Traditional leaders, Excellencies, Senior Of icials, Partners, and Friends of the Blue Pacific Continent,
Bula Vinaka and Iakwe to all of you,

At the outset, let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to the organisers of this event to commemorate International Day Against Nuclear Tests.
I am deeply honoured to join you and to deliver this remarks on behalf of the Government and the people of the Republic of Marshall Islands (‘RMI’).The Pacific was once used as a nuclear testing ground with over 315 nuclear weapons being tested. In the case of RMI, 67 nuclear and thermonuclear weapons were detonated in our northern atolls of Enewetak and Bikini from 1946 to 1958, spanning a period of 12 years. While the nuclear tests were conducted at Bikini and Enewetak atolls, the fallout traveled to other atolls in the Marshall Islands, especially Rongelap and Utrik Atolls. Not knowing of what had happened, the people living on these atolls were then subject to a study known as Project 4.1 on the biological effects of radiation on human beings. Our people have lived through the horrors of these nuclear testing activities.From the permanent relocation of resident populations to the serious and lasting impacts on the health, environment and human rights of our affected communities.
To date, we continue to grapple with the generational effects of radiation, sicknesses, displacement, relocation, and environmental damages, as consequences from the nuclear tests.

While our people continue to pursue fair and just resolution to the nuclear legacy, they continue to face other challenges due to the impact of climate change. All of these undermine our rights and development as a nation. As citizens and people of the Pacific, we must not stop from seeking what’s in the best interest of our children, people and nations.

Today’s theme: “Honouring the Past, Empowering the Future: Stories of Resilience” is a very fitting one.

It not only reminds us of the importance of honouring the lives of the victims and survivors of our nuclear legacy but serves as a source of hope, motivation and empowerment for the future.
The issues surrounding the nuclear legacy in the RMI are real. Last November, I had the opportunity to visit the Rune Dome in Enewetak Atoll. I invited a good friend of mine, a young journalist, to come along to document the historic visit. Like him, it was my first time to be in Enewetak and Runit Dome. He asked me what I was thinking about when I was there at the dome. I gave him a general reaction on how significant the visit was but deep inside I was reflecting on those who have lost their lives, those who continue to suffer, and those who are displaced from their home islands.

Two of my daughters are here with us today. They are from Rongelap Atoll, one of the atolls which was heavily affected by the nuclear fallout. We have been teaching them about their
history and home island. We see this, a sort of yearning to know more about their home, from our children who were borned outside Rongelap. Parents are the important connectors, linking our children with both the past and the future.

Although nuclear testing has ceased following the promulgation of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (‘Rarotonga Treaty’), we must not be complacent as more work is yet to be done.

The Runit Dome in Enewetak Atoll is a constant reminder to continue our national efforts for nuclear justice.

As we reflect on today’s event, I would like to share five key priority areas my Government is undertaking under the National Nuclear Commission Strategy for Coordinated Action FY 2020-2023 to help inform partners and friends on how they can be able to support the RMI.

1. Healthcare – Address healthcare needs not just for 4 atolls (section 177), but for the whole Marshall Islands. There are over 20 various types of cancers according to Nuclear Claims Tribunal data. Cancer care options are not available in RMI.

2. Education – Every generation needs to inherit the knowledge about the testing program to make the best decisions for the communities. TheNuclear Legacy has been integrated into the Public School System (PSS) Social Studies and Science Curriculum.

3. Environment – regular environmental monitoring missions in the 4 atolls have not done much to change or improve the current situation, and recent study has found that there is only less than 1% of plutonium inside the Runit Dome, meaning 99% of the contamination is in the surrounding environment; There is need for our Pacific region to have its own
capacity and capability to look after this.

4. Displacement – The legacy of this testing and colonial control has made the Marshall Islands more vulnerable to climate change and further emphasizes responsibility for the safe resettlement of displaced Marshallese and the restoration to economic productivity in the affected areas. People of Bikini and Rongelap remain displaced until today, living in small islands vulnerable to Climate Change and rising sea levels.

5. Compensation – the responsible government is obligated to provide compensation for damages and harm inflicted upon the Marshallese and their lands through the Nuclear Claims Tribunal established under the Compact of Free Association.

At the international level, the core group comprising of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) who have Permanent Missions based in Geneva were able to pass a resolution by consensus through the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to provide technical assistance and capacity building to address the human rights implications of the nuclear legacy in the
Marshall Islands.

We, therefore, call on your continued support to complement our national efforts as per the Leaders’ ongoing concerns through their communique.

The significance of our gathering today is in itself a tribute to the souls and lives of every nuclear victim who have passed and are still experiencing the impacts of the nuclear testing programs. Not just in the Marshall Islands, but throughout our vast Blue Pacific Continent. We have paid the highest price for the purposes of international peace and security

Once again, wishing you all a happy commemoration day.

Kommol tata!


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