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Supporting the SDGs: IAEA Participates in UN High-Level Development Forum

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The IAEA side event  on 'Food Security and Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology for Development' hosted at the 2016 United Nations High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development. (Photo: IAEA New York Office)

The IAEA highlighted the role of the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology in contributing to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the first United Nations High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF).

“Many people around the world reap the benefits of nuclear science and technology — often without even realizing it — in diverse fields such as agriculture, health, industry, energy, water management and environmental monitoring,” said Martin Krause, Director of the IAEA Division of Europe. Outlining the IAEA’s role in promoting the SDGs, Krause emphasized the Agency’s support for its Member States through capacity building in the use of nuclear science and technology to address development challenges.

Martin Krause, Director of the IAEA Division of Europe at the United Nations HLPF for Sustainable Development. (Photo: International Institute for Sustainable Development)

Held under the theme, “Ensuring that no one is left behind,” the HLPF is the central platform created by UN Member States to monitor the implementation of the SDGs.

During the session on science and technology on 12 July, the IAEA explained the widespread uses of nuclear technology and the collaborative projects undertaken with the Agency’s support. “Sharing information and cooperating to promote the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear technology with our Member States is the very essence of the IAEA itself,” said Krause, adding that this knowledge sharing apprises policymakers and enhances relations between countries through the facilitation of international science cooperation between North and South.

Isotopic and nuclear techniques enhance food security

At an IAEA side event, ‘Food Security and Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology for Development’, held on the margins of the HLPF, the important areas of the Agency work in this field was highlighted as well as the close partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

“The IAEA through its Joint FAO/IAEA Programme in food and agriculture uses isotopic and nuclear techniques to assist Member States in improving food security and achieving sustainable agricultural production,” said Krause. The Programme is aimed to increase food security through capacity building and technology transfer, which can significantly contribute to the SDGs, Krause added.

Representatives from the Permanent Missions of Austria, Kazakhstan, the Philippines and South Africa to the United Nations, who participated at the event, highlighted the successful IAEA projects implemented in their countries, where nuclear techniques were used to solve food-related challenges. These projects included mutation breeding to improve wheat production in Kazakhstan, food irradiation to improve food safety in the Philippines and the sterile insect technique to suppress the false codling moth that devastated the export of citrus orchards of the Western Cape in South Africa.

In her remarks, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the UN Lourdes Ortiz Yparraguirre said that a study conducted in her country on consumer acceptance of irradiated food found that the percentage of consumers willing to purchase irradiated food had substantially increased when consumers were provided with appropriate information on the technology used. “Success is measured not by the number of projects but how they make a difference in the lives of people.”

For his part, Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the UN Kairat Abdrakhmanov spoke about his government’s efforts to promote food security, including, the production of new wheat varieties to increase nutrient value and withstand drought. "Promotion of food security is an integral part of Kazakhstan's 2050 Strategy, and the extent of this commitment is not limited to merely raising food production capacity and ensuring national self-sufficiency, but also to expanding agricultural production and meeting regional and global demand."

One of the major problems facing South African citrus farmers is the threat from false codling moths, said Jerry Matjila the Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN. “The citrus farmers have been struggling for years to deal with false codling moth, which infested their orchards, causing massive damage to citrus and the ability for the citrus industry to grow.” However, since the farmers first used the sterile insect technique equipment in 2007, thanks to IAEA’s support, the codling moths have been substantially reduced, and the citrus industry, which is the second most agricultural export commodity in South Africa, is thriving again, he added.

The importance of the IAEA’s laboratory support for Member States was also highlighted by the Permanent Representative of Austria to the UN, Jan Kickert. “Since their founding in 1962, the IAEA laboratories located in Seibersdorf (Austria) have delivered technical assistance to Member States.”

The renovation of these laboratories will continue to serve Member States' growing and evolving sustainable development needs in the areas of food and agriculture, human health and the environment in the years to come.

The High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development took place from 11 to 18 July in New York.

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Last update: 26 Jul 2017

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