November 23, 2001
1. The North Atlantic Council on January 10th agreed to a robust plan for sharing information on possible effects of depleted uranium (DU) on the health of peacekeepers involved in NATO-led operations, as well as that of the civilian populations. One element of that plan was to establish the Ad Hoc Committee on Depleted Uranium (AHC) under the aegis of the Political Committee and the Chairmanship of the Deputy ASG for Political Affairs. The mandate of the AHC is to serve as a forum for the exchange of information on the possible health risks associated with the use of DU and act as a clearing-house on this issue. This initiative demonstrates NATO's commitment to openness and transparency and to understanding as fully as possible the implications of DU. While the AHC has already exchanged a considerable amount of information, this is an open-ended process and new information that may be produced will continue to be shared. The AHC will meet as necessary to review results.
2. Participants of the AHC are Allies, all past and present non-NATO SFOR and KFOR contributing countries, states of the region and concerned international organisations. Thus 49 countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia take part in the AHC. Representatives of the European Union (EU), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (OHR), the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have participated in the AHC as well.
3. Nations have shared copious amounts of information in the AHC, based on their examinations and studies - over 20 nations have been testing their personnel serving or having served in the Balkans and half a dozen nations have been conducting environmental tests. Many Nations provided summary information on their studies and findings in the tables circulated by the International Secretariat (see attached).
4. To facilitate the research, NATO has provided the AHC with maps and co-ordinates, when available, of the locations of the use of DU munitions. This information has been updated as new data became available. Members of the AHC have received a briefing from the NATO Chair of the Committee of Chiefs of Military Medical Services (COMEDS) on their initial findings, and have been subsequently kept informed of further work undertaken by the COMEDS. The AHC has also received several briefings from SHAPE and the International Military Staff, including on SFOR and KFOR policies on handling, recovery, storage and disposal of spent DU munitions. Furthermore, guidelines for civilians who may come into contact with DU, which have been issued to the civilian authorities of the concerned countries, have been shared with the AHC (1). In addition, the acting NATO Spokesman briefed the AHC on public information aspects of the matter, the issue of information handling and the NATO website. The AHC's creation in itself performed a valuable public information role. It was the most visible practical example of NATO's genuine openness, effectively demonstrating its determination to seek out and then circulate as much information as possible. It was also a source of much of the information that went on NATO's website, adding to its growing reputation as an authoritative source for the media.
5. International Organisations provided valuable contributions to the AHC's work. The Representative of the EU Presidency kept the AHC informed of the activities in the EU. The Representative of the European Commission regularly briefed the AHG on the work of the Group of Experts in Radiation Protection and Public Health. The Co-Director of Kosovo's Department of Health and Social Welfare briefed the AHC on his department's examination of hospital records in Kosovo over the past four years. A WHO expert team had visited several sites and hospitals in Kosovo as well. The ICRC reported that it conducted voluntary testing of its personnel in Kosovo. The AHC was also briefed by Mr. Haavisto, Chairman of the UNEP's DU Assessment Team, on the post-conflict environmental assessment carried out in Kosovo on 5-19 November 2000.
6. Based on all this information shared:
- To date no nation has reported finding evidence of an increase in incidence of illness among peacekeepers in the Balkans compared with the incidence of illness among armed forces not serving in the Balkans;
- Thus far none of the nations reported finding a link between health complaints of personnel employed in the Balkans and DU;
- The discussion and information shared by nations and international organisations so far reinforced the preliminary report of the NATO Chiefs of Military Medical Services that at present, based on peer-reviewed medical scientific data, no link has been established between DU and reported cancers;
- To date none of the nations or international organisations has reported finding any indication that would suggest a current threat to human health caused by radioactivity at any of the sites tested.
- In view of the sizeable amount of information shared in the AHC, all of which points to the conclusion that at present there is no scientific link established between DU and health complaints, the Chairman of the AHC will convene the Committee as necessary. Several studies are being conducted by nations and further reports will become available in due course. Given the Allies' commitment to ensure a full exchange of views and information sharing on possible health effects associated with DU, the Chairman of the AHC remains ready to convene further meetings of the Committee as appropriate.