40 Years of the IAEA
Based on reports by Mr. Qian Jihui, IAEA Deputy Director General for Technical Cooperation, and Royal F. Kastens of the Department

Countries in the developing world have received almost US $800 million in IAEA technical support over the past forty years. In 1958, technical programmes aimed at building national capacity in nuclear science and technology were carried out in forty-two countries. By the end of 1996, new and more targeted programmes reached ninety-five countries. These activities - all financed from voluntary contributions of Member States - are now increasingly aimed to produce greater social and economic benefits for the farmer and environmentalist, physician and patient and other end users of nuclear science and technologies. The challenge of redefining the Agency's strategy for technical cooperation was set in motion in 1994 by a Policy Review Seminar of Member States. The focus was on three themes: strengthening radiation protection and waste management infrastructures; the need for systematic country planning; and increasing the impact of IAEA technical cooperation by reaching the technology's end users. For guidance, a Standing Advisory Group on Technical Assistance and Cooperation was formed with representatives from Member States, to help ensure that new targets are met.

Becoming a partner in national development is a new thrust of the IAEA's technical cooperation programme. But the Agency is not a "development" organization, and it has no related field offices or large pool of funds. Its traditional role has been catalytic - in areas of research, development, and demonstration of nuclear-based "solutions". Expanding these benefits beyond the demonstration phase requires funds, project management, and operational support that exceed the Agency's traditional resources. "Partners in Development" is the new term for the process of connecting technology to the end users, and the active engagement of a broader community of interests. A new generation of "Model Projects" launched over the past decade represent the wave of the future. They must meet tough criteria: respond to priority national and regional needs; produce sizable economic and social impacts; employ nuclear technologies only when they have distinct advantages over others; and attract strong governmental commitment. As such, they stimulate a "problem solving" approach, and a very intensive dialogue between the Agency and governmental partners, so that the projects reach well beyond the counterpart institutions to beneficiary communities and their citizens.

The Agency has launched several broader policy initiatives to better coordinate the uses and applications of nuclear technologies for greater economic and social impacts. In years to come, the Model Project approach will be expanded through "Country Programme Frameworks" that identify priority activities in each developing Member State, and "thematic planning" that singles out the most significant technical solutions for duplication across several countries. These new mechanisms will ensure that IAEA development partnerships are focused on where they can produce the greatest benefits. The first thematic plan now becoming operational is in radiation protection - meeting the Agency's Safety Standards that are a statutory pre-condition for all activities involving ionizing radiation. Significantly, one of every three Model Projects proposed for 1997-98 reflect radiation safety priorities.

In some countries, the combination of increased investment, demonstrated technology, and a more vibrant commercial sector is moving the development process forward quickly; in many others, it will take more time. The past decade has seen the IAEA better position itself to meet the needs of its Member States, regardless of their level of development or technological sophistication.

Graph of Contributions $ 2.01 was the amount 12-year-old Joseph Santore and his friends gave the IAEA back in 1958, to help kick off contributions for the Agency's technical cooperation work. Today's resources top $60 million in support of over one thousand projects. Yet the challenge remains to effectively fund activities, and the 1990s saw some hills and valleys that negatively affected programmes. The Agency and its Member States are looking closely at trends and ways to maximize efficiency and stabilize available resources.