Director General Yukiya Amano represented the IAEA at the historic Sustainable Development Summit in New York, where he underlined the importance of nuclear science and technology in achieving the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He attended events on climate change, women’s empowerment, and cancer control, and met ministers from a number of Member States, offering the support of the IAEA in achieving the SDGs.
“I very much welcome the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals,” Mr Amano said in a statement. ”And I am especially pleased that explicit recognition has now been given to the importance of science and technology for development.”
The SDGs are an agreed set of targets, adopted unanimously at the United Nations General Assembly last weekend, related to international development.
Mr Amano spoke of the many ways in which the IAEA, through its technical cooperation programme, transfers nuclear technology to developing countries to help them achieve their development objectives. For instance, the IAEA helps Member States to monitor and respond to marine pollution that threatens the livelihoods of fishermen. It assists countries in providing access to radiotherapy for cancer patients, saving lives. “The IAEA delivers. We are much more than just the world’s nuclear watchdog.”
Read more about how the IAEA will contribute to the SDGs.
Combating climate change
Mr Amano attended the interactive event Protecting our Planet and Combating Climate Change, held as part of the Summit.
Increases in energy supply will be required over the next few decades to support economic development and lift 2.6 billion people out of energy poverty, he said in a statement marking the event.
“Many countries believe nuclear power can help them to address the twin challenges of ensuring reliable energy supplies while curbing greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Amano said. “Nuclear power is one of the lowest-carbon technologies available to generate electricity, and it can play a significant role in mitigating climate change.”
The IAEA provides assistance to countries that wish to use nuclear power and assists them to do so safely, securely and sustainably, he added.
Nuclear science can also play a significant role in addressing the effects of climate change, and in helping communities to adapt to its consequences. The IAEA has worked with researchers worldwide to devise models to help predict future climate conditions and to provide information on ocean acidification. The Agency has also assisted countries in developing new food crops that are resistant to drought and other conditions caused by a changing climate. It works with countries and regions to use nuclear techniques to manage limited water resources.
“It is important that the contributions that nuclear science and technology can make to combating climate change are recognized,” Mr Amano said.
Gender equality and women’s empowerment
Mr Amano also attended the Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, organized by UN Women on the sidelines of the Summit to focus on gender-related goals in the SDGs.
The IAEA pays close attention to women’s concerns in its work in Member States, Mr Amano said in a statement marking the event. “I want our programmes to have a positive impact on women’s lives.”
As an international scientific organization, the IAEA was very aware of the need to strive for gender balance on its own staff. Good progress had been made in the representation of women in the IAEA, but more needed to be done, Mr Amano said.
“I remain committed to expanding the opportunities available to women at the IAEA,” he added. “I encourage all Member States to actively help us achieve the ultimate goal of equal gender representation.”
The situation for women in science and engineering globally has improved a lot in recent decades, but they remain male-dominated fields. There has been a gradual increase in women participation in IAEA training programmes over the years. By 2014, women made up close to a third of fellows, scientific visitors, training course participants and meeting participants.
While in New York, Mr Amano also spoke at the One-on-One With African First Ladies / Spouses, an event focusing on building awareness around the importance of cancer control in Africa.
Mr Amano spoke of the important role of the IAEA in supporting Member States in fighting the disease. “I am very pleased that the new Sustainable Development Goals, for the first time, recognise the huge importance of non-communicable diseases, including cancer,” he said, urging developing countries to speak up about the importance of treating cancer as a development priority. “The Forum of African First Ladies has done a terrific job in helping to move cancer higher up the global political agenda. I am very proud to be your partner.”
70% of the world’s cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, where many do not have access to treatment. The IAEA supports some 160 cancer projects around the world through its technical cooperation programme. It helps countries to establish oncology and radiotherapy centres, provides extensive training for medical and technical staff, and supports the establishment of nuclear medicine facilities for diagnostics. “Let us continue to work together towards the ultimate goal of equitable access for all patients to the highest standards of cancer care, wherever they live,” Mr Amano told the First Ladies.
On the margins of the General Assembly, Mr Amano held meetings with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, the foreign affairs ministers of Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Latvia, Paraguay, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates and the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan. Mr Amano briefed his partners on the role of the IAEA in helping countries to meet the SDGs.