|The experience of the ETHOS Project in Belarus (1996-2001), supported by the European Commission, has shown that the direct involvement of the population in the day-to-day management of the radiological situation resulting from a nuclear accident is a necessary approach to complete the rehabilitation programme implemented by public authorities in contaminated territories, especially in the long term. This was confirmed in the final declaration (download the final declaration in English, in French) adopted by the participants of the international seminar held in November 2001 in Stolyn (Belarus) on "The rehabilitation of living conditions in the territories contaminated by the Chernobyl accident: the contribution of the ETHOS approach in the Stolyn District". This declaration states that such an approach was "efficient in practice" and "merits to be studied, developed and disseminated".
To be effective and sustainable, the involvement of the local population must rely on the dissemination of a practical radiological protection culture within all segments of the population and especially within professionals in charge of public health and education. Experience from the ETHOS project has demonstrated that the development of such a culture requires several factors to be combined. These include a basic knowledge about the mechanisms through which man is exposed within a contaminated environment combined with direct access to practical means by which the radiological quality of this environment can be evaluated and the levels of internal and external exposure of individuals and the whole population controlled. The establishment of such a shared culture also implies the setting up within the contaminated territories of a specific infrastructure related to the health care and education system. This infrastructure must bring together public and non-governmental organisations to implement the necessary management procedures. The involvement of non-governmental organisations and representatives of the public in the practical implementation of rehabilitation strategies has proved to be a key factor in the enhancement of public trust and confidence.