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Introduction: IAEA’s Technical Co-operation (TC) Programme

Extreme poverty and deprivation remain a problem of monumental proportions at the dawn of the 21st Century. Some 1.2 billion people in the developing world survive marginally on less than US$ 1 a day. Another
2.8 billion struggle on less than US$ 2 a day. Nearly half of the world’s poor live in South Asia. Among them, eight out of every 100 infants do not live to their fifth birthday because of malaria, dirty drinking water, or malnutrition.

The numbers of the poor have been rising in some regions—Latin America, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa—in recent decades. Over the next 25 years, moreover, roughly 2 billion people will be added to the world’s population—almost all of them (97 per cent) in the developing world.

Harnessing Nuclear Science and Technology for Development

The poor are not poor simply because they lack money, as economist Dr. Jeffrey Sachs points out in his Foreword. The poor lack access to the tools and knowhow that would allow them to become more healthy and productive. Much of the specific knowledge and technologies that could help them remain underdeveloped—a cure for AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) or malaria, for example. But the knowledge gap trapping the poor can and is being bridged.

An effective assault on poverty in the developing world requires a focus on the fundamentals: reliable food supplies, safe and adequate water and sanitation, better remedies for human and animal health problems, and sound environmental management. Science and technology must be directed at removing the indigenous obstacles standing in the way of poor and at solving their unique problems.

Since its launch over four decades ago, the IAEA’s Technical Co-operation (TC) programme has benefitted from a distinct technology paradigm which incorporates research, adaptation, and transfer of nuclear science and technology for development. Putting advanced science to work for the unempowered is a multifaceted and complex process. It requires a concerted campaign of “capacity building” to prepare national scientists and institutions in the practical utilization of science. It requires time, focused resources, and special expertise to test, adapt, and refine nuclear applications to the difficulties, conditions, and resource constraints imposed on poor communities. Finally, it requires complementary mechanisms and institutions that can ensure that successful nuclear applications gain widespread recognition and implementation in the most opportunistic sectors, and across all regions. All of this can and must be achieved within the context of a safe, secure, and well-regulated nuclear infrastructure.

The IAEA’s Unique Contribution to Poverty Alleviation

As Dr. Sachs has astutely observed, the United Nations development system would benefit greatly from a stronger foundation in science and technology. Over the past ten years, the IAEA TC Strategy has sought to advance the nuclear sciences and adapt applications to meet the unique problems of developing Member States.

The following pages reveal the ways and means by which some of this progress has been attained through nuclear applications. Today, nuclear techniques are improving tropical plant varieties and combatting tropical insects and diseases; isotopic techniques are investigating marine life and ocean pollution, and probing groundwater reservoirs; and nuclear tools are improving the quality and safety of food. Nuclear medicine, moreover, is being used increasingly to extend the lives of cancer sufferers across the developing world.

Collaborating effectively with willing bilateral, multilateral, and non-governmental aid partners, IAEA TC has entered an exciting phase in which its scientific contributions to Member States are yielding very sizeable human benefits.

Partnering in the
Global Development Agenda

The IAEA participates actively in the global development dialogue through such fora as the World Food Summit and World Summit on Sustainable Development. Such meetings provide an opportunity to forge operational partnerships with UN organizations, multilateral and bilateral agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

In the water resources field, for example, the IAEA participated in thedrought 2001 International Conference on Freshwater in Bonn, Germany in order to deepen collaboration with key actors in the water community. As lead UN organization for World Water Day 2002, the IAEA brought special attention to initiatives for improved water management. Partnering directly with the World Bank and Global Environment Facility (GEF), the IAEA is transferring isotope hydrology techniques to four Latin American countries participating in the Guarani Aquifer Programme (see p. 2 for details). Likewise, IAEA TC is providing technical advice to the World Bank in its efforts to mitigate arsenic contamination in Bangladesh, where over 50 million people may be threatened with poisoned ground water. (more details here )

In the realm of food security and nutrition, IAEA has joined with numerous partners to better meet human needs through nuclear technology. Involvement in the World Food Summit has laid the foundation for partnerships with the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) programme on nutrition in East Asia and the Pacific. Agency-supported activities employ isotopes to trace human absorption of micronutrients. This in turn provides critical inputs to ADB nutritional interventions at the macro level (more details here ) in several Asian countries.

Collaborative efforts in Africa have long focused on eradicating the tsetse fly, which spreads deadly diseases in both cattle and humans. Working with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the IAEA has been providing the nuclear technology needed for the sterile insect technique, where male flies are rendered sterile using gamma radiation. Their release into the wild represents the final phase in a multi-dimensional, multi-agency process of tsetse reduction and eradication. The collaboration has proved successful in Zanzibar, and the approach is now being applied in the African mainland.

The prevalence of malaria is another major health concern across Africa. Isotopic techniques are helping to detect drug-resistant strains of malaria quicker and cheaper than previously possible through conventional methods. In co-ordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), the IAEA is aiding local health authorities in identifying mutations corresponding with drug-resistance to key medications. Some of the same nuclear techniques will soon be applied in developing and testing an AIDS vaccine for Africa, working in collaboration with WHO-UNAIDS (more details here )

IAEA partnerships are by no means limited to the poorest countries. European Commission authorities have long recognized the high value of IAEA’s nuclear decommissioning planning process. In Bulgaria, the IAEA and the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant worked in co-ordination with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and its Kozloduy International Decommissioning Fund to establish a project management information and control system, which will be used to support the decommissioning of Units 1 and 2.

Partnering in key areas of IAEA expertise is a critical element of the present and future technical co-operation strategy. The IAEA is continually seeking new opportunities to collaborate and utilize nuclear technologies to advance the global development agenda.

Next Chapter :
  Managing Water Resources in an Era of Scarcity


GUARDING THE GUARANI: Improving Management of South America’s Precious Groundwater Full Story...
POISONED WATERS: Bangladesh Reaches to Science for a Solution Full Story...
GREAT LAKES BENEATH THEIR FEET: Probing North Africa’s Oldest Water Treasures Full Story...

Mohamed Elbaradei

“The TC Programme is a principal mechanism for implementing the IAEA’s fundamental mission:
“Atoms for Peace.”
Not only do we seek to ensure that nuclear materials and equipment are used peacefully and safely, but we are also committed to expanding the contribution that nuclear technologies make to peace and development.”

IAEA Director General
Mohamed ElBaradei

TC Web site