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Event Marking 35th Anniversary of ARCAL

Varadero, Cuba

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

(As prepared for delivery)

Good morning, Mr/Madam (Deputy) Minister, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am very pleased to attend this meeting of the Regional Cooperation Agreement for the Promotion of Nuclear Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean.

I congratulate ARCAL on its 35th anniversary and I thank the Technical Cooperation Board, OCTA, for inviting me today.

Since becoming IAEA Director General in 2009, I have visited many of our Member States in Latin America and the Caribbean.

It has been fascinating to observe the steady progress being made by countries of this region in using nuclear science and technology to improve the health and prosperity of their people.

ARCAL played a key role in this process. Its work has also led to a significant strengthening of what is often called “South-south cooperation,” with more advanced users of nuclear technology sharing their expertise with their neighbours.

South-South cooperation has strengthened the impact of the work of the IAEA in transferring nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. It helps to ensure that technology transfer is closely aligned to the needs and priorities of beneficiary countries and encourages the efficient use of limited resources.

Collaboration with other UN organizations such as the Pan-American Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization has been very helpful in increasing the impact of IAEA and ARCAL projects.

The United Nations Development Assistance Framework, UNDAF, is also an important mechanism. I commend Cuba for its current efforts to formulate a new UNDAF and encourage all national ARCAL Coordinators to actively participate in the formulation and implementation of the UNDAFs in their respective countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

ARCAL and the IAEA have worked together effectively for the past 35 years to make nuclear science and technology available in health care, food and agriculture, industry and many other areas.

The Agency cooperates directly with each of your 21 state parties. But ARCAL has proven to be an excellent framework for taking a more strategic approach to using nuclear technology to help address common problems across this region of some 580 million people.

ARCAL and the IAEA are presently working together on the basis of the Regional Strategic Profile for Latin America and the Caribbean for 2016 to 2021. It identified six priority areas: food security, human health, the environment, energy, radiation safety and radiation technologies.

A total of 163 IAEA technical cooperation projects were approved for ARCAL countries over the past 35 years.

Key achievements include curbing fruit fly infestation in countries such as Mexico and Guatemala, using the sterile insect technique.

The use of radiation-induced mutation techniques led to the development of new varieties of foods such as tomato and quinoa in a number of countries. Here in Cuba, a robust variety of rice introduced in 1997 continues to enjoy great success.

Together, ARCAL and the IAEA have helped countries in the region to improve management of precious water resources and monitor marine pollution.

I am proud of the IAEA’s ability to respond quickly to emergencies in Member States.

In 2016, for example, we provided nuclear-derived early detection tools and training support to help rapidly identify cases of the Zika virus after outbreaks were reported in 26 countries and territories in this region.

After the deadly earthquake in Ecuador in April 2016, we dispatched four mobile digital X-ray units, as well as mobile generators, emergency diagnostic equipment and personal radiation detectors.

Last year, the IAEA provided equipment to both Ecuador and Mexico so they could use non-destructive testing techniques, including radiography, to determine whether buildings and other structures damaged in earthquakes were in danger of collapse.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since 2015, helping countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, using relevant nuclear technology, has been an important part of our work.

In fact, the IAEA helps countries to use nuclear science and technology to meet at least nine of the 17 SDGs directly, including those aimed at ending hunger, improving human health, increasing the availability of clean water, and, of course, energy.

The IAEA is unique within the UN system in having eight nuclear applications laboratories near Vienna. These train scientists, support research in human health, food and other areas, and provide analytical services to national laboratories.

A long-overdue modernisation of the laboratories is nearing completion, thanks to generous contributions from IAEA Member States.

When the modernisation is finished, we will be able to deliver improved services to Member States to make food safer, improve control of harmful insect pests, and maximize the benefits of new radiation technology for cancer treatment – to name just a few examples.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me single out one of those examples and say a few words about cancer control.

Cancer is the second most important cause of death in Latin America and the Caribbean, after cardiovascular diseases.

Nuclear medicine and radiotherapy have made considerable progress in this region and the IAEA is proud to have contributed. But more needs to be done to enlarge the geographical reach of advanced technologies, which are not evenly spread throughout the region.

ARCAL Member States have identified the development of regionally produced radiopharmaceuticals, used in cancer diagnosis and treatment, and training for radiotherapy technicians and medical physicists as priorities for technical cooperation with the IAEA.

The current five-year Regional Strategic Profile includes a focus on strengthening national cancer control programmes.

As part of our contribution, IAEA expert missions assess the level of nuclear medicine and radiotherapy services in a country and offer recommendations on improvements.

Working closely with ARCAL, the IAEA helps countries to plan and build nuclear medicine and radiotherapy facilities. We arrange education and training for oncologists, radiologists, medical physicists and other specialists.

In 2017, we launched a one-year Masters programme in advanced radiotherapy for medical students from ARCAL countries in Santiago, Chile, co-hosted by the Arturo López Pérez Foundation and the University of Los Andes. It is the first course of its kind in this region.

A new linear accelerator facility has just been installed at our Dosimetry Laboratory, near Vienna. It will soon become operational, significantly expanding the services we offer to Member States in improving cancer treatment.

The Dosimetry Lab has already contributed to improved treatment quality and patient safety throughout the world by helping to ensure that patients receive exactly the right dose of radiation.

The Agency has a long history of supporting countries in developing the capacity and infrastructure needed for the safe and secure use of radiation in diagnosing and treating cancer.

After some shortcomings were identified with our Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy, PACT – which is one of the key divisions that conduct our cancer control activities – we made important changes to our general approach in this area.

This includes streamlining the work of PACT and adopting a unified, one-house approach to cancer control, led by my Office. This will enable us to be more effective in delivering concrete assistance to Member States.

In September this year, the IAEA Scientific Forum will focus on cancer control. It will review countries’ achievements over the last 10 years and consider how the Agency can best meet their needs in the future.

I encourage all ARCAL countries to participate.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, let me congratulate Cuba on taking on the presidency of ARCAL and compliment Mexico on its successful leadership of this important organization for the past two years.

I wish you every success with your meeting.

The IAEA will continue to strengthen our partnership with ARCAL in the coming decades for the benefit of all the people of this region.

Thank you.

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