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29 January 2014 | Vienna, Austria

Statement at New Year's Reception

by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

Dear friends and colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for joining me today. I hope it is not too late to wish you all a happy new year.

I feel it is important to strengthen communication with the Agency's Member States and I intend to hold more informal meetings with you in the future.

This reception provides a good opportunity for us to talk informally about the challenges facing the Agency in the coming years. I will also outline my priorities as I work to fulfil the important mandate given to me by the Board.

2013 was an exceptionally busy year for the Agency. We had two successful Ministerial Conferences - on nuclear energy and on nuclear security. We continued to expand our technical cooperation programme. The new Nuclear Material Laboratory building at Seibersdorf was completed. We embarked on a plan to modernise the nuclear applications laboratories, known as the ReNuAL Project.

In the closing months of the year, important progress was made on the Iran nuclear issue. Building on that progress will be my top priority in the non-proliferation area in the coming years. The Agency is firmly committed to doing everything it can to resolve all the outstanding issues related to Iran's nuclear programme.

As you know, the Board last week gave its endorsement to the Agency undertaking monitoring and verification in relation to measures to be implemented by Iran under the Joint Plan of Action. We have already started work on that.

Work under the Framework for Cooperation, which I agreed with Iran last November, has also proceeded. I will report on developments to the March Board.

Also in the safeguards area, we will continue to consult actively with Member States in relation to the State Level Concept.

It is vitally important that we update the safeguards information system. The current mainframe is obsolete and simply not up to the task of storing and processing the huge amounts of data which we are required to handle. It is also vulnerable to attacks from hackers. We have launched a project known as MoSaIc to significantly upgrade the safeguards information system.

The MoSaIc and ReNuAL projects are both very important for the future of the Agency and I will continue to keep Member States fully informed. I will, of course, be grateful for all financial support.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is widespread recognition that access to science and technology is essential for socio-economic development. Unfortunately, there is less awareness of the important contribution which nuclear technology can make.

When I meet world leaders, they are often surprised to learn about the Agency's work in making nuclear technology available to developing countries in health care, food and agriculture, water management and environmental monitoring - to name just a few areas. They are always very supportive.

I will continue my efforts to build recognition of the Agency's contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals - and in the MDG follow-up process.

The importance of our technical cooperation programme for developing countries will continue to grow. We continue to build partnerships with key counterparts in both the public and private sectors, and to seek new sources of funding.

The modernisation of the Nuclear Application Laboratories by 2017 will be a visible sign of the Agency's commitment to supporting developing countries even more effectively.

Nuclear power remains the best known application of nuclear technology. Our programme of assistance to both newcomers and established users of nuclear power will continue to grow. Two structural changes within the Division of Nuclear Power will help us to offer improved services: as of this month, the Groups responsible for INPRO and newcomers, respectively, have been upgraded to Sections.

Strengthening nuclear safety will remain at the forefront of our work. This is essential for restoring public confidence in nuclear power, which was shaken by the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

We continue to assist Japan in dealing with the aftermath of the accident. Our series of international expert meetings helps to ensure that the lessons are learned internationally. This year, we aim to finalise the IAEA report on Fukushima Daiichi, which will be presented to the General Conference in 2015.

I would like the Agency to do more to help Member States address technical aspects of nuclear and radioactive waste disposal. I am considering making this the subject of the Scientific Forum in September.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Member States have made clear that they want the Agency to play an increasingly active role in the area of nuclear security. Demand for our services continues to grow. We have increased the staffing and resources devoted to this area and created a new Division of Nuclear Security.

I continue to encourage Member States to ratify the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. I hope that this important instrument will enter into force very soon.

Let me say a few words about management of the Agency.

We recognise that the financial situation remains very difficult for many Member States. This affects their ability to contribute to the Agency.

My commitment to cost savings and efficiencies is undiminished. Our efforts to cut costs in areas such as travel and consultancies are bearing fruit. We have launched a Partnership for Continuous Improvement to find ways of providing our services more efficiently, with minimal bureaucracy and waste. More than 100 actions have been identified and a third of them have already been implemented. We will provide more information on this later in the year during the budget process.

In order to meet the growing needs of Member States, however - especially in priority areas such as nuclear safety, nuclear security and technical cooperation - some modest budget increases will be indispensable in the coming years. I count on you to ensure that the Agency has the resources to do its job properly.

We continue to make headway in increasing the proportion of women in senior positions. Since I took office four years ago, the number of women directors has grown steadily. We now have one female DDG and 10 female directors. I will continue to work to increase the proportion of women, and to ensure equitable geographical representation, at senior levels in the Agency.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The environment in which the Agency operates is constantly changing and the priorities of Member States continue to evolve. But our basic objective has not changed: Atoms for Peace.

I will continue to address the different pillars of our work in a balanced manner, and to ensure that we deliver concrete results through effective management.

I am deeply grateful for the confidence which Member States have placed in me as Director General. I am extremely proud of the IAEA, which is one of the very finest organisations in the UN system. I am proud of our excellent staff, who show exceptional professionalism and dedication.

Let us never lose sight of the enormous contribution which the Agency makes to the peace and prosperity of the world by preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, and by making nuclear technology available for the health and well-being of humankind.

Thank you.