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History

For five decades, the IAEA has been fulfilling its mandate to "accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world".

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was established in Vienna in 1957. The Statute of the IAEA, approved by 81 nations, founded the organization on three pillars: nuclear verification; safety and security; and the transfer of technology. Today, these three pillars still remain at the heart of the organization’s work.

When the IAEA opened for business, nuclear science and technology were in their infancy. Many Member States had no nuclear capacity at all. The IAEA’s ‘technical assistance’ programme, as it was then known, was modest. Early projects were small in scale and short in duration, focusing mainly on helping developing Member States build up human capabilities and create the institutions and facilities that would enable them to introduce and enlarge the role of nuclear technology or apply nuclear techniques in a safe and effective manner. Larger multi-year projects were funded by UNDP. In the late 1970s, as contributions to the Technical Cooperation Fund increased and the benefits of having larger projects became evident, the IAEA introduced multi-year projects into its own programme.

In the early 1980s, the IAEA began to evaluate systematically the impact its technical cooperation projects were having in beneficiary countries. It was concluded that the Secretariat had responded effectively to the challenge of a rapidly growing programme and that the projects were contributing to the transfer of technology. By the end of the 1980s, however, the phase of capacity and infrastructure building in Member States was largely complete. The time was ripe to shift the focus of the programme. A review of technical cooperation activities, particularly of policy and strategic matters, was carried out in the mid-1990s. The effort sought to ensure that the programme would have a cost-efficient, direct, and measurable impact on the high-priority economic or social needs of the country being assisted; an impact well beyond the institute through which the activity was carried out. This review matured into the 1997 TC Strategy, later updated in the 2002 TC Strategy review. Today, the TC Strategy has been incorporated into the IAEA’s Medium Term Strategy for 2012—2017.

Today, the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme focuses on cooperation for sustainable socioeconomic development, building on the skills and infrastructure that Member States have acquired over the past five decades. Member States are full partners in the process, guiding the IAEA’s technical cooperation activities, setting national and regional priorities, and offering training opportunities and technical support to the IAEA and to other Member States. Technical cooperation between developing countries is facilitated and supported through regional cooperative agreements. Regional centres of expertise play an important role in sharing the benefits of nuclear science and technology among Member States.

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Responsible/Contact: Department of Technical Cooperation | Last update: 05 Nov, 2014

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