18 September 2001 | Vienna, Austria
4th Scientific Forum during the 45th Session of the IAEA General Conference
Introductory Statement to the 4th Scientific Forum
by IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei
I am pleased to welcome all of you to our 4th Scientific Forum. Our theme this year is "Serving Human Needs: Nuclear Technology for Sustainable Development."
This theme is different from those of previous years, in that it does not focus on one technology or technology sector but, rather, on nuclear technology transfer itself, and how that transfer can promote sustainable development in Member States, by matching specific technologies to meet their development needs.
We hope by this Forum to raise general awareness of some lesser known nuclear technologies, by presenting a number of successful examples of technology transfer activities. These nuclear technologies have several things in common. They have comparative advantages over other available technologies. They have resulted in positive socio-economic impact in recipient countries. And they have been achieved through effective partnerships between the IAEA and governments, and other governmental and non-governmental organizations.
We have brought together at this Forum technical experts, policy-makers and other concerned parties to examine the impact of these technologies from the perspective of developing countries, to comment on the record of the Agency in transferring nuclear technology to its Members through a technical co-operation programme that is demand driven rather than technology driven, and to discuss concrete methods of moving forward.
We have divided the Forum into three focus areas of non-power nuclear applications: food security, water resources management and human health. Food security can be enhanced by using radiation and radioisotopes to help improve agricultural productivity - and by promoting more efficient use of available resources. Clean water is also vital to sustainable development, and the techniques of isotope hydrology can provide a detailed understanding of underground aquifers, significantly improving the ability to manage scarce water resources. And the use of nuclear techniques to enhance human health ranges from well known technologies - such as radiotherapy for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer - to less familiar isotopic applications to improve the health of children or to develop new vaccines.
In planning this forum, we have been fortunate to secure the participation of eminent experts in sustainable development as well as experts in each of the technologies under consideration. But another resource is the audience itself: I am encouraged to see a list of attendees that covers a broad range of experience and perspectives, and I would encourage your active participation in the discussions with our lecturers and panelists over the next two days. In particular, I would like to focus your attention on a number of important areas that influence our programme for technical co-operation.
First, I would encourage you to discuss the importance of comparative assessment to ensure that the nuclear technology selected in any given case is the best technology available. Who is best placed to make that assessment? What factors should be considered in reaching a conclusion?
A related question relates to the importance of government commitment in influencing the success of technology transfer and sustainable development. How crucial is government participation and investment in the technology transfer programme, and what are the corresponding benefits?
Third, many of our success stories involve partnerships - with other international organizations, regional bodies or private sector groups. In a time of limited financial resources, these partnerships help to leverage resources in areas of common interest. But what are the factors that have made these partnerships successful? And are there other types of organizations to whom we should also market our capabilities and with whom we should be creating partnerships? What steps can be taken to demonstrate to the private sector the value of partnering with us? And specifically, for development projects that require both nuclear and non-nuclear activities to be successful, how do we establish partnerships with organizations that can perform the necessary non-nuclear activities?
Fourth, where does the Agency's role in partnership end?. In other words, who "picks up the ball," so to speak, after the basic conditions have been established? For example, I am sure you will hear discussions of how important the eradication of the tsetse fly is to improving livestock production and thereby to reducing poverty. But once the tsetse has been eradicated in a given country, whose role is it to buy healthy livestock?
Another important issue to consider is how to ensure the sustainability of a particular technology, once the developing country has built the necessary capacity - in terms of expertise or the necessary equipment. What linkages must be in place before a project starts - or by the time we declare it completed - to ensure that the technology transferred is sustained? What is the Agency's role in this regard?
A number of other issues are also worthy of your attention. How necessary is it that technical co-operation projects in every case have a national focus, as opposed to a broader regional or sub-regional focus? And what are the benefits to be accrued by encouraging technical co-operation among developing countries (sometimes referred to as TCDC) - sharing the benefits one country has experienced with other countries who have similar needs and priorities?
These and other questions I hope will be part of a stimulating discussion here at the Forum over the next two days. Again, I welcome each of you and look forward to the Forum report, which will summarize your views and recommendations and will be conveyed to the plenary of the General Conference.
We are pleased to have as our chairperson of this Scientific Forum, Professor V. S. Ramamurthy, Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Science and Technology. Dr. Ramamurthy has a rich academic and professional background in theoretical and applied physics and, in his current position since 1995, has had a direct role in the development and transfer of science and technology. Given this background, he is especially qualified to chair these sessions.
With these remarks I hereby open the 4th Scientific Forum, and turn the podium over to Dr. Ramamurthy.