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FAO and IAEA Reinforce Partnership, Aim to Improve Monitoring and Control of Diseases

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IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi signed a Revised Arrangement with FAO Director General Qu Dongyu, during a virtual meeting on 23 February 2021. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

For more than 57 years, the partnership between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and IAEA has contributed to addressing global challenges, including food insecurity, climate change, animal/zoonotic diseases and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. The IAEA and FAO signed a Revised Arrangement today, which upgrades their partnership and expands the horizons of their work.

The Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, now known as the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture represents a partnership with a distinct research and development structure within the UN system. The Centre encompasses the FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratories, while providing capacity-building support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“The Joint FAO/IAEA Centre will continue to reflect the longstanding strategic partnership between FAO and IAEA in sustainable agriculture development and food security using nuclear science and technology,” said Qu Dongyu, Director General of FAO. The Centre will remain a joint entity to support COVID-19 emergency assistance, as well as South-South and Triangular Cooperation.

“We begin a new era of collaboration between FAO and the IAEA, which will strengthen our strategic partnership for the benefit of the millions of people whom we serve together,” said Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General of the IAEA.

The Revised Arrangement introduced two main updates – to expand the areas of common interest and to increase the efficiency of management. The expansion will improve the monitoring and control of transboundary animal, zoonotic and plant diseases. The IAEA laboratories’ research and development capacities will be integrated with FAO’s One Health initiative, an integrated approach that recognizes the interconnected relationship between animals, people, plants and the environment, which will contribute to ZODIAC (Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action). Veterinary and public health officials will directly benefit from joint research and development activities, expert guidance, as well as technical, scientific and laboratory support. Using a systematic and integrated approach, ZODIAC, an IAEA initiative launched in June 2020, will strengthen the preparedness and capabilities of Member States to rapidly detect and respond to outbreaks.

The strengthening of the FAO/IAEA partnership will bolster FAO’s contribution to building a global One Health architecture and allow for better leveraging of FAO’s worldwide network of veterinary laboratories operating in the field. The Joint Centre’s laboratories provide an added-value for all partners, while ZODIAC will help fill knowledge gaps.

History of the FAO and IAEA partnership

The Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Atomic Energy in Agriculture was established on 1 October 1964. Arrangements were revised in 1966, 1979, 1989, 2001 and 2013. Since 1 January 1989, the Joint Division has been called the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture. The 164th Session of the FAO Council in July 2020 agreed to rename the Joint Division and establish and strengthen the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre.

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