The United Nations General Assembly is today expected to adopt a resolution proclaiming the period to 2016 as a "decade of recovery and sustainable development" for territories in Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine that were affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, according to the UN press-release. The goal of the decade is "a return to normal life" for affected communities. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been tasked with drafting a unified UN action plan and coordinating UN work on the decade.

"Working closely with the three national governments, our goal is to do what we can to ensure that by the end of the third decade after the Chernobyl accident, life in the affected regions returns to normal, communities take control of their fates, and the area at last overcomes the stigma associated with the disaster," said Kemal Dervis, the UNDP Administrator and UN Coordinator of International Cooperation on Chernobyl.

The resolution embraces the forward-looking findings of a new report on Chernobyl by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, which concludes that, "after two decades, a return to normal life is a realistic prospect for most people living in Chernobyl-affected regions."

The UN resolution underlines the daunting challenges that the region still faces, but underscores that a "developmental approach," focusing on such efforts as job creation, investment promotion, and community development, holds potential solutions.

It also notes the importance of conveying to local populations the "message of reassurance" provided by the UN Chernobyl Forum, a joint initiative of eight UN agencies and the three most-affected countries. The Forum concluded in 2005 that people living in the affected territories need not live in fear of serious health consequences from the accident. This finding offers the hope that providing better information to the public will ease pervasive fears arising from myths and misconceptions about radiation.

The resolution also welcomes the appointment earlier this year of Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova as a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador. Sharapova`s efforts have focused on delivering an upbeat message of recovery, self-reliance, and healthy choices to young people in the Chernobyl-affected territories, where she has family roots.

Sharapova is expected to visit a number of UNDP project sites in the affected regions in 2008.

Finally, the resolution notes the significant progress made recently in the long-running effort to transform the damaged Chernobyl reactor and its surroundings into a stable and environmentally safe site, and stresses the urgency of completing this task successfully.

The Secretary-General will report back to the General Assembly on the progress of the "decade of sustainable development" and other Chernobyl recovery efforts in 2010.

As the coordinating agency for UN work on Chernobyl, UNDP spearheads efforts in three priority areas: information provision, including promotion of healthy lifestyles; community-based social and economic development, supporting initiatives aimed at improving welfare and encouraging self-reliance; and policy advice and advocacy.