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Asian Nuclear Science Meeting Held via Teleconference

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Jane Gerardo-Abaya, Director of the TC Division for Asia and the Pacific, delivered an opening address on behalf of Deputy Director General Dazhu Yang. (Photo: U. Zaheer/IAEA)

Connecting from home offices and conference rooms across half the planet—spanning 10 time zones, from Vienna to New Zealand—49 participants from nuclear institutes across Asia and the IAEA joined a video conference call to conduct the 42nd meeting of national representatives of the Regional Co-operative Agreement for Research, Development and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology for Asia and the Pacific (RCA). The meeting has been held annually since 1973 to coordinate IAEA technical cooperation (TC) efforts in the region. Originally planned to be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the meeting was instead held online, for the first time in the Agreement’s history, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RCA is the longest standing of the IAEA’s regional cooperation agreements and was formally established in 1972 to facilitate efforts made throughout Asia and the Pacific to intensify and broaden engagement with nuclear science and technology, particularly in the areas of research, development, and training. In the last 48 years, the RCA has contributed to the development of technical and human resource capacities in the region through more than 150 TC projects.

Abdul Muin Bin Abdul Rahman, Chairperson of the RCA and Deputy Director General of the Malaysian Nuclear Agency, said: “Despite the current global situation, the RCA programme should not lose sight of its important goal of promoting the application of nuclear science and technology in support of sustainable socio-economic development.”

Mohd Abd. Wahab Bin Yusof, Director General for the Malaysian Nuclear Agency, in his welcome remarks, emphasized Malaysia’s continued dedication to the RCA programme and thanked all of the participants for their availability in the unprecedented online meeting, pointing out “the unprecedented global crisis, COVID-19, has forced many countries to impose restricted movement orders to control the virus, which has, in turn, restricted our abilities to conduct socioeconomic activities, including implementing the RCA programme. To avoid losing sight of the goals of the RCA programme, we have to find innovative ways of conducting our work, including this online meeting today.”

RCA National Representatives from Thailand, pictured here, were among 49 participants from nuclear research institutes across Asia and the IAEA who joined the video conference. (Photo: IAEA)

Jane Gerardo-Abaya, Director of the TC Division for Asia and the Pacific, reaffirmed the IAEA’s commitment to deliver services and support to Member States in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in her welcoming remarks, and conveyed the suggestion to the RCA to discuss how nuclear technologies might be further leveraged to combat disease pandemics, both now and in the future.

Gerardo-Abaya encouraged the RCA to apply innovative multi- and inter-disciplinary approaches in their implementation of the programme, to harness new intellectual capital and to tap into existing expertise and technologies in the region.

“It is important that we review the progress we have made in ongoing strategic improvement initiatives for the RCA,” she said, “including the assessment of the social and economic impact of this 48-year-old agreement, as well as preparations for the 50th anniversary of RCA in 2022. These initiatives will lead to a reinvigorated programme and an improvement in our efficiency and effectiveness, which will enhance the relevance and visibility of RCA.

The National RCA Representatives Meeting has been held annually since 1973 to coordinate IAEA technical cooperation efforts in the region. (Photo: N. Garmaa/IAEA)

Aside from focusing on high-level policy and management issues related to the Regional Cooperative Agreement, the meeting paid particular attention to operational and procedural matters which will affect the future on-the-ground planning and implementation of the RCA programme. Participants revisited the RCA Medium-Term Strategy 2018-2023 and considered the progress made thus far toward attaining the goals and objectives agreed-upon by the parties to the Agreement.

During the day-long meeting, key decisions were taken by the participants, including the selection of priority concepts for the 2022-2023 TC Cycle, chairmanship of the Programme Advisory Committee, and membership of the Working Group for Medium-Term Strategy. The meeting also agreed on a plan for the organization of the Special Task Force for the 50th Anniversary of the RCA in 2022.

Currently, there are 22 State Parties to the RCA: Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Palau, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam.

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