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IAEA to Help Small Island Developing States Meet Development Challenges


They’re small, they’re isolated and they share common challenges. They’re often referred to as Small Island Developing States, or SIDS. Representatives from this group of countries gathered last week in Vienna to discuss ways in which the IAEA could help them tackle some of these pressing issues using nuclear technology.

SIDS have small but growing populations, who depend on the ocean for their livelihood. They’re also particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including natural disasters and rising sea levels.

Along with the rest of the international community, the 38 countries categorized as SIDS have agreed on a series of development priorities under the 2030 Development Agenda. But their limited resources and remote location make it hard for them to act alone.

“SIDS are aware that pooling their resources together to face common challenges is the best way to go,” said Cameron Diver, Deputy Director General of the South Pacific Community. “For SIDS countries, regional and international technical organizations are an extension of their national capacity because they often don’t have enough resources.”

The meeting held at the IAEA was a good opportunity for SIDS representatives to learn about the technical capacities their countries can draw from and study the ways in which the IAEA and relevant regional organizations can help them use nuclear technology to further develop. “We can now move from regionalism in theory to regionalism in action, from the talk to the doing,” Diver said.

“Meetings like this one help us realize that we’re all facing similar problems and help us find the best technologies and ways to deal with them, together,” said Maria de los Angeles Peña, Vice-minister of Energy and Mines of the Dominican Republic.

How can nuclear help?

Nuclear techniques could help SIDS mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. Nuclear-derived techniques, for example, can be applied to monitor the impacts of ocean acidification and help identify the sources of pollution in the sea, essential information for populations that heavily rely on the sea for their livelihoods and nutrition.

Nuclear technology can help countries struggling with limited land space to better manage their water resources through smart agriculture, to develop new crops that are resistant to salty soil or to strengthen soil fertility. In addition, the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), which is already helping the Dominican Republic contain the outbreak of the Mediterranean fruit fly, could help this and other SIDS countries combat vector-transmitted viruses such as Zika and Chikunguya.

“SIDS have a very different set of challenges to the rest of the world community,” said Peter Kenilorea, Head of the SIDS sub-programme at the United Nations Office for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and SIDS (UN-OHRLLS). “So the idea of the IAEA having a specific programme for SIDS right across the board — whether these are in the Pacific, the Caribbean, or the Indian ocean — is going to be useful and helpful.”

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