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IAEA General Conference
45th Regular Session

Programme and Abstracts (pdf file)
Prof. Sach's Keynote
Dr. ElBaradei's Statement
Session reports:
Food & Water
Final Oral Report

Serving Human Needs
IAEA Scientific Forum Opens in Vienna
Science and technology can be mobilized for solutions in the world’s poorest countries, but it will not be easy, Harvard’s Jeffrey Sachs says
by Peter Rickwood, IAEA

Globalized markets alone are not going to deliver the solutions science and technology offer the world’s poorest people, without major policy and funding shifts and stronger international co-operation, Jeffrey Sachs, Director of Harvard University’s Centre for International Development told the IAEA Scientific Forum in Vienna today.

"The markets will not do it on their own," said Prof. Sachs. "We need international public policies, international co-operation, a great deal of financial assistance from the rich countries to the poor countries to get out of this bind of growing inequality between rich and poor."

Mobilizing international science and technology to address the needs of the world’s poorest countries "is one of the most critical challenges that we face," he said.

The US economist was delivering by video a keynote address to the Scientific Forum, which opened today and is being held in conjunction with the IAEA’s Annual General Conference, in the Austria Center. The full text of his statement is on the IAEA’s WorldAtom site, which is providing daily coverage of the Conference.

"We want to live in a world that is successfully sharing in prosperity," Prof. Sachs told the gathering of international experts.

Jose Vargas, Brazil’s Ambassador to UNESCO and the country’s former Minister of Science and Technology, said in his opening address that rich and poor should strive for the establishment of a new social contract that makes science contribute to the pursuit of happiness for all humanity.

The two day forum seeks to raise awareness about nuclear technology that may not be well known but is protecting human health, managing scarce supplies of fresh water, and assisting in the fight against hunger.

"These nuclear technologies have several things in common. They have comparative advantages over other available technologies. Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the IAEA, said in his opening address.

"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," he said.

Prof. Sachs said he "marvels" at the breakthrough by the IAEA in being able to eradicate the tsetse fly, one of Africa’s most pernicious pests that carries sleeping sickness and a disease that kills cattle.

An environmentally friendly method, known as the sterile insect technique in which millions of males flies sterilized with low doses of radiation are released, rid the island of Zanzibar of the tsetse fly. The African Union is supporting use of the technique to exterminate the tsetse across Africa.

Prof. Sachs said he believes that the weak, or non-existent, impulse for science and technology in poor countries is the reason for the income gap that has been widening for nearly 200 years between wealthy countries.

Four elements maintain the gap, he said:

  • Rich countries’ huge markets offer scientists and engineers the incentive of profit to drive research and development, that poor countries can’t match.
  • Scientists like to work together and produce an increasing yield to scale but such groupings include representatives from poor countries who end up solving the problems of the rich world and not their own.
  • Some temperate countries are able to achieve technological dynamism, not by their own innovation, but by importing technologies from other temperate countries that are not suited to tropical conditions.
  • The "final bind" is that climate change, related to human activity –"that seems to be underway right now is likely to impact even more heavily on the already poor world than on the rich world."

The Scientific Forum concludes 19 September. Prof. Sachs will participate by video in a concluding panel discussion, chaired by Ms. Margaret Catley-Carlson, Chair of the Global Water Partnership, tomorrow (Wednesday) from 15.00 – 18.00 central European time.

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