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IAEA Director General’s Speech at the UN University for Peace

San Jose, Costa Rica
U Peace Amano

Director General Yukiya Amano at the UN University for Peace in San José, Costa Rica (Photo: C.Brady/IAEA)

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a pleasure to be here at the UN University for Peace in Costa Rica. I last had the pleasure of visiting your country in October 2013.

I know that the University does important work in areas including peace and security, sustainable development and climate change.

These are also key areas of the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Costa Rica joined the IAEA in 1965 and is active across a broad range of our activities.

We are best known for our work in helping to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. You may have seen media coverage in the last few weeks about the implementation of an important international agreement concerning Iran’s nuclear programme.

The IAEA played an important role in helping to bring about that agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. We will verify and monitor Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the agreement.

I will be happy to say more about this in the discussion afterwards, if you are interested.

But, first, I wanted to make the point that our mandate is much broader than nuclear non-proliferation: it is to bring the benefits of peaceful nuclear science and technology to all humankind, while minimizing the risks.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IAEA has been contributing effectively to sustainable development for nearly 60 years.

We helped countries in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in areas such as boosting food production, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and managing limited water supplies.

There are all areas in which nuclear science and technology have a great deal to offer.

I was in New York last September when world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals. For the first time, they explicitly recognised the importance of science and technology for development.

The IAEA can contribute directly to achieving 13 of the 17 goals agreed in New York. These are in areas such as poverty, hunger, human health, clean water, affordable and clean energy, and climate change.  

We already work closely with our Member States on all of these, to help them achieve their development goals through the use of appropriate nuclear technology.

Here in Costa Rica, for example, IAEA technical cooperation has focused on making irradiation facilities available for use in biomedicine and agriculture, helping to combat insect pests that are harmful to livestock and crops, and cancer control.

Let me mention a few examples.

At the University of Costa Rica, we helped to establish a reference laboratory for measuring greenhouse gases.

In the last 10 years, we worked with Costa Rica and other countries in the region to reduce the damage caused to mangos and other crops by the fruit fly.

The IAEA deploys what is known as the sterile insect technique, which is essentially a form of contraception for fruit flies.

Male flies are sterilised using radiation. They are then released into affected areas, where they mate with females. These do not produce offspring.

This technique can eventually eradicate entire populations of insect pests. As a result of our collaboration, Costa Rica country was able to start exporting gourmet tomatoes to the United States in 2010, generating much needed revenue and helping to create jobs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to say a few words about our work in cancer control.

For more than 30 years, the IAEA has worked with Member States and international partners to improve countries’ capacity in cancer detection, diagnosis, treatment and palliative care.

Many developing countries lack the capacity to provide radiotherapy, which is a vital element of cancer control. Patients often die of cancers which could be treated if they lived in a country with well-developed cancer facilities. This is a great human tragedy.

Our Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy – PACT – helps countries to use limited resources efficiently and effectively. The IAEA has invested nearly 300 million euros in cancer and radiotherapy projects throughout the world.

Our mission is to transfer technologies to help save lives. We provide training for medical and technical personnel. Sometimes we help to make equipment available.

The IAEA sent a team of international experts to Costa Rica in 2014 to carry out what we call an imPACT Review, to assess your country’s needs and make recommendations on developing cancer control capacity.

I am sure the findings will be useful in helping the government and national experts to implement your national plan for cancer prevention and control.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IAEA technical cooperation programme is the main vehicle through which we transfer nuclear technology.

Countries determine their own needs and priorities. We then do our best to assist in areas where nuclear science and technology have a major contribution to make.

This is a very important part of our work. Its impact in the daily lives of millions of people around the world is remarkable.  

In January, we began implementing the new technical cooperation programme for 2016-2017.

New projects in the pipeline in Costa Rica include establishing a biological dosimetry laboratory; strengthening radiotherapy and nuclear medicine capabilities at Costa Rican hospitals; and using isotope tracer techniques to manage water supplies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IAEA’s 167 Member States also benefit from access to our nuclear applications laboratories near Vienna. These are unique within the UN system.

They offer training to scientists, support research in human health, food and other areas, and provide analytical services to national laboratories.

More than 130 Costa Rican nationals have held fellowships or undertaken scientific visits to the laboratories in the last decade. They work with some of the top international scientists in their fields and return home to share their expertise with their colleagues.

A comprehensive modernisation of the laboratories is now underway.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hope I have given you some insight into the fascinating work of the IAEA. We greatly value our cooperation with Costa Rica and look forward to strengthening it in the coming years.

I will now be happy to take your questions.

Thank you.


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