Ongoing Impact of Nuclear Testing in the Republic of Marshall Islands

“Ours is a moral case for which we are more than justified to seek redress commensurate with the damaged inflicted on the people and their islands.” – President Hilda Heine of the Republic of Marshall Islands (3 March 2017)    

During the time that the Marshall Islands was under US trusteeship, the U.S. Government detonated 67 atmospheric and ground weapons over a twelve year period. The long-term legacy of nuclear testing in the Pacific has had profound consequences on the national and human development of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

These consequences were examined in 2012 by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights implications of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes. As observed by the UN Special Rapporteur, the nuclear testing “resulted in immediate and continuing effects on the human rights of the Marshallese”.  The UN Special Rapporteur paid particular attention to the effects of nuclear testing on the Marshallese people’s right to health, and the long-term consequences of the displacement of communities from their traditional land.

The Pacific Islands Forum has been a long-standing supporter of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and its people in their efforts to seek a just resolution to their claims for adequate compensation for the ongoing consequences of the US’s nuclear testing.

This commitment was most recently affirmed in 2017 at the Forum Leaders’ meeting in Samoa where the communique says:

“Leaders recalled that the Republic of the Marshall Islands was placed by the international community under the trusteeship of the United Nations administered by the United States of America, both of which therefore have ongoing obligations to encourage a final and just resolution for the Marshallese people. Leaders welcomed the recommendations in the Special Rapporteur’s report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2012, and that the statement of the UN Secretary-General on 14 August 2017 that “finding a solution to this issue is critical for the future of the Republic of the Marshall Islands” and his assurance that the relevant United Nations entities stand ready to respond to requests for assistance.”

“Leaders supported bilateral, regional and multilateral action to assist the Republic of the Marshall Islands in its efforts to engage the United States towards a justified fair and just resolution to the U.S. Nuclear Testing Programme. Leaders agreed to submit letters to the US Government urging the US to take further action to meaningfully address the ongoing impacts resulting from the US Nuclear Testing Programme, and to the United Nations Secretary General regarding any requests for assistance submitted to relevant United Nations agencies by the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and any other measures which may assist to address the ongoing impacts of nuclear testing in the Pacific.”

“Leaders recalled their decision from 2016 and reaffirmed that the Forum Secretariat coordinate assistance by CROP Agencies to the Republic of the Marshall Islands in addressing ongoing impacts of nuclear testing, including, inter alia, human rights, environmental contamination, and health impacts. Leaders further tasked the Forum Secretariat to report to the 49th Pacific Islands Forum on actions taken in this regard.

In March 2018 the Forum Chair, the Hon Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa, communicated the Forum’s position of support for the Republic of the Marshall Islands to the President of the USA. The Forum Secretariat, Pacific Community (SPC) and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) are consulting with the Republic of the Marshall Islands Government to identify ways in which they can provide support to address the ongoing consequences of nuclear testing.

Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor attended Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day in Majuro in 2018 and spoke at the opening ceremony.