IAEA Director General Addresses UN General Assembly

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA, 5 November 2013. (Photo Credit: Conleth Brady / IAEA)

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addressed the United Nations General Assembly on 5 November 2013, reviewing the IAEA's work over the past twelve months and outlining his priorities for the future. The Director General stressed that access to modern science and technology is essential for achieving all of the Millennium Development Goals. The IAEA has a unique role to play in assisting developing countries in the use of nuclear technology for human health, agriculture, food security, water management and the environment.

Director General Amano drew attention to the problems faced by many developing countries in addressing cancer diagnosis and treatment. Many African nations have absolutely no radiotherapy facilities, and cancers which are increasingly treatable elsewhere are all too often fatal in developing countries. The Director General called on the international community to mobilize its resources against cancer in a systematic way. This crisis must be addressed with a multipronged international effort to build awareness, develop diagnosis and treatment centres and train medical professionals, he said. The IAEA, through its Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) and working closely with the World Health Organisation, is playing its part by helping to make radiotherapy, medical physics, nuclear medicine and imaging services available to developing countries.

The Director General also addressed the issue of climate change, informing the General Assembly that a new Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre had been established at the IAEA Environmental Laboratories in Monaco. The Centre promotes global cooperation and a comprehensive approach to the study, monitoring and protection of the marine environment.

Nuclear safety and nuclear security remain a matter of high priority for the IAEA, Director General Amano said. The IAEA is assisting Japan in dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. Steady progress is also being made in implementing the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety. At the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the Twenty-first Century, held in the Russian Federation in June 2013, one of the key messages was that for many countries, nuclear power would play an important role in achieving energy security and sustainable development goals. He stressed that the IAEA had a unique role in assisting Governments, operators and regulators in understanding their international obligations and national responsibilities concerning nuclear power, as well as in adopting international standards and best practices.

In his statement, Director General Amano encouraged countries to address an important area of unfinished business in nuclear security: the ratification of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. This would expand coverage of the Convention to include the protection of nuclear material in domestic use, storage and transport, and the protection of nuclear facilities against sabotage.

Director General Amano recalled that 8 December 2013 marked 60 years since U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his historic Atoms for Peace speech to the Assembly, calling for the establishment of an international atomic energy agency to put nuclear material to use to "serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind". Since its inception in 1957, the Agency has worked hard to bring those benefits to all parts of the globe and to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. "The world has changed enormously in that time," the Director General said. "But the 'Atoms for Peace' mission has lost none of its relevance. The Agency has successfully adapted to changing times and the evolving needs of Member States."

The United Nations General Assembly at its 68th Session reaffirmed its "strong support for the IAEA's indispensable role in encouraging and aiding the development and practical application of atomic energy for peaceful uses, including in transferring technology to developing countries and in nuclear safety, verification and security. The Assembly also appealed to Member States to continue to support the Agency's activities." The Resolution was adopted after IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano presented the IAEA's 57th Annual Report to the Assembly on 5 November 2013.

Last update: 1 November 2014