Providing assistance to developing Member States in building up their capacity to investigate and utilize nuclear energy for peaceful purposes represents one of the key statutory functions of the IAEA. Under Article III of its Statute, the IAEA is authorized to make provisions for materials, services, equipment and facilities to meet the needs of research on, and development and practical application of, atomic energy for peaceful purposes, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world.
Another impetus for the IAEA's role as a catalyst in technology transfer came indirectly from the efforts over the past forty to fifty years to prevent more countries from acquiring nuclear weapons. These efforts have been based on several independent, but mutually reinforcing elements, central to which is a body of legally binding agreements, with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) being the pre-eminent multilateral agreement. The Treaty was opened for signature on 1 July 1968 and entered into force on 5 March 1970.
Article IV of the NPT calls upon Parties to the Treaty to co-operate with each other and with international organizations in promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and mentions in particular the needs of the developing countries. This clearly marks out a role for the IAEA as a catalyst in the transfer of nuclear technology. This activity is co-ordinated with the assistance given by other United Nations system organizations - especially the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). In partnership with the IAEA, UNDP and its precursor, the United Nations Special Fund, have been financing the transfer of nuclear science and technology for development for the benefit of their Member States since 1961.
Today, international co-operation in nuclear science and technology takes place in a complex framework of bilateral, regional and multilateral arrangements. Many of these arrangements are purely commercial, others bring together two or more governments in co-operative agreements. The IAEA is the one global organization offering an international framework amongst all Member States with particular attention to the needs of developing countries. It has also fostered regional co-operation arrangements, and provides for bilateral assistance to be conducted under its auspices.
ARTICLE III OF THE AGENCY'S STATUTE - Article III states that:
"A. The Agency is authorized:
- To encourage and assist research on, and development and practical application of, atomic energy for peaceful uses throughout the world;
- To make provision, in accordance with this Statute, for materials, services, equipment, and facilities to meet the needs of research on, and development and practical application of, atomic energy for peaceful purposes, including the production of electric power, with due consideration for the needs of the under-developed areas of the world;
- To foster the exchange of scientific and technical information on peaceful uses of atomic energy;
- To encourage the exchange and training of scientists and experts in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy;
- To establish and administer safeguards designed to ensure that special fissionable and other materials, services, equipment, facilities, and information made available by the Agency or at its request or under its supervision or control are not used in such a way as to further any military purposes; and to apply safeguards, at the request of the parties, to any bilateral or multilateral arrangement, or at the request of a State, to any of that State's activities in the field of atomic energy;
- To establish or adopt, in consultation and, where appropriate, in collaboration with the competent organs of the United Nations and with the specialized agencies concerned, standards of safety for protection of health and minimization of danger to life and property (including such standards for labour conditions), and to provide for the application of these standards to its own operations as well as to the operations making use of materials, services, equipment, facilities, and information made available by the Agency or at its request or under its control or supervision; and to provide for the application of these standards, at the request of the parties, to operations under any bilateral or multilateral arrangement, or, at the request of a State, to any of the State's activities in the field of atomic energy;
ARTICLE IV OF THE TREATY ON THE NON-PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS (NPT) - Article IV states that: "All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also co-operate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world."