Marshall Islands People Still Suffering Decades After U.S. Nuclear Testing

From 1946-1958, the United States conducted a series of 67 atmospheric nuclear test explosions in the South Pacific that devastated the indigenous peoples in the Marshall Islands. During most of that time, the Marshall Islands was a part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands administered by the United States.

According to the preliminary findings of United Nations Special Rapporteur Calin Georgescu the communities affected by nuclear testing over sixty years ago in the Marshall Islands have “yet to find durable solutions to the affected population."

“They feel like ‘nomads’ in their own country, and many have suffered long-term health effects,” he said. Georgescu is UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights obligations related to environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste. His is the first mission ever to the Republic of the Marshall Islands by an independent expert of the UN Human Rights Council.

“I have listened to the concerns and stories of affected communities from Bikini, Enewetak, Rongelap and Utrik. As a result of the nuclear testing, all of these communities have suffered dislocation, in one form or another, from their indigenous way of life,” he noted.

His report will be finalized and delivered to the UN Human Rights Commission this September.

The current U.S. plan for ongoing monetary compensation for the residents of the islands (which is due to expire in a decade) does not constitute an effective long-term or sustainable plan, yet the U.S. government seems to have no plan for the future.

The UN Special Rapporteur's findings underscore not only the devastating impact of atmospheric nuclear testing on indigenous populations, but the urgent and overdue need for comprehensive action plan to assist populations in areas affected by nuclear testing, from the South Pacific, to Kazakhstan, to Algeria, Western Australia, and other regions -- an idea that many NGOs have been advocating at the International Day Against Nuclear Tests and elsewhere.