Kazakhstan is hosting a major conference to commemorate the 25th anniversary of closing the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site. Over 450 Soviet nuclear-weapons were tested at Semipalatinsk from August 29th, 1949 to that date in 1991, when Kazakhstan’s first and current President Nursultan Nazarbayev shut down the site. Over 1.5 million Kazakh citizens have suffered serious health conditions as a result of the nuclear tests.
The August 29th conference held in Astana, ’Building a Nuclear Weapons Free World,’ also marks the United Nations’ International Day Against Nuclear Tests.
A who’s who of global figures is participating in the conference, including Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Religions for Peace Co-President Ela Gandhi (grand-daughter of Mahatma Gandhi), Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization Lassina Zerbo, Director General of United Nations Office in Geneva Michael Møller, along with an impressive array of parliamentarians, mayors, religious leaders, government representatives and disarmament experts.
The renowned artist Karipbek Kuyukov will also be present. Born without arms due to the effects of nuclear testing, Kuyukov is a prominent anti-nuclear-weapons activist and Honorary Ambassador of the ATOM Project, an international campaign aimed at bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force. Launched in 2012 by President Nazarbayev, the ATOM Project engages global citizens in the fight against nuclear weapons, most recently with a petition that has garnered over 300,000 signatures.
Kazakhstan has shown consistent leadership with regard to nuclear disarmament. As Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator for Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (which is co-organizer of the conference) told the Astana Times: ‘Kazakhstan has led by example on this issue. This includes closing down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, which had been the primary testing venue for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons, repatriating all nuclear weapons in Kazakhstan (approximately 1,500) to Russia for elimination, negotiating a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone with other Central Asian countries, moving the UN General Assembly to establish the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, establishing ATOM Project to educate the world about the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and drafting a Universal Declaration for a Nuclear Weapon Free World which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2015.’
Plenary sessions of ‘Building a Nuclear Weapons Free World’ will be live streamed at the conference website: www.astanaconf2016.org
Resources for Media:
Conference blog: www.astanaconf2016.org/en/blog/
Powerful introduction video (1 minute): www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMjbMHIzyLw
Media clips: International press coverage of the conference www.astanaconf2016.org/en/media-clips/
The ATOM Project petition: www.theatomproject.org/100K/