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IAEA Director General's Statement to the 71st Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly

New York, USA

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano delivering his statement at the 71st Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA.  (Photo: Rick Bajornas/UN Photo)

Mr President,

Let me begin by offering my warmest congratulations to Mr Antonio Guterres, who was sworn in today as United Nations Secretary-General.

I wish Mr Guterres every success in his important new role and I look forward to working closely with him.

I also pay tribute to outgoing Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-Moon. I wish Mr Ban health and happiness in the future.

Mr President,

This year, the IAEA began celebrating its 60th anniversary.

From the 26 countries which had ratified the IAEA Statute when it entered into force in July 1957, we have grown to an organisation with 168 Member States that spans the globe.

Our mission is Atoms for Peace and Development and our membership continues to grow.

The Agency has helped to improve the health and prosperity of millions of people by making nuclear science and technology available in health care, energy, food and agriculture, industry and other areas.

IAEA inspectors contribute to international peace and security by verifying that nuclear material stays in peaceful uses.

Over the years, we have dealt with some of the most critical issues on the international agenda. These include nuclear verification in Iraq, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

I will say more about this important area of our work in a moment.

But, first, let me note that the past 60 years have demonstrated that nuclear science and technology play a significant role in supporting sustainable development.

Today, the Agency is active in helping countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including those concerning poverty and hunger, human health, energy, climate change and the protection of the oceans.

Our technical cooperation programme is the primary mechanism for the delivery of IAEA services to Member States.

This year, our work included assisting countries in the Western Hemisphere in responding to the outbreak of Zika virus disease. Our research into ways of further developing the sterile insect technique against the Aedes mosquitoes, which transmit Zika, has been intensified. 

Last month, I visited Brazil to learn about its efforts to combat Zika and the impact of the assistance which the IAEA is providing.

Mr President,

Improving access to effective cancer treatment in developing countries remains a high priority for the IAEA. 

Through activities such as our Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy, PACT, we help countries to devise comprehensive cancer control programmes.

Real progress has been made in the availability of cancer treatment in recent years in Africa, in particular. New specialist cancer centres have been established. Radiation oncologists and medical physicists are returning home after receiving intensive training abroad with the support of the Agency.

But the needs remain great and the Agency will maintain its focus on cancer control. 

We are an active partner in the United Nations Joint Global Programme on Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control, which aims to reduce cervical cancer mortality in participating countries by 25% by 2025. Our role in this important programme is to improve access to radiation therapy.

The first International Conference on the IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme will take place in Vienna from May 30th to June 1st next year. The aim is to ensure greater understanding of our work on assisting sustainable development. I encourage all IAEA Member States to participate.

Mr President,

Capacity-building is of vital importance in all areas of the IAEA’s work.

Since 1958, more than 48,000 scientists and engineers have held fellowships and scientific visitor positions through the IAEA technical cooperation programme, both at the Agency’s laboratories, and in the facilities of our partners around the world.

Many of these scientists and engineers went on to play a key role in building capacity in nuclear science in their countries.

In recent years, I have reported to the General Assembly on our plans to modernise our nuclear applications laboratories, near Vienna. The laboratories are the engine of much of the technical support which we provide to Member States.

I am pleased to inform you that construction of the first of two new buildings – the Insect Pest Control Laboratory – has begun. Construction of the second will start soon.

Mr President,

When I first took up office, I stated that nuclear power should not be the preserve of developed countries and that developing countries should also be able to use it.

Nuclear power can make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy security, while delivering energy in the large and growing quantities needed for development.

There are 450 nuclear power reactors in operation in 30 countries today, while 60 reactors are under construction.

Around 30 developing countries are considering introducing nuclear power. If countries opt for nuclear power, we support them actively at every step of their journey so they can use it safely, securely and sustainably.

The first of four nuclear power reactors in the United Arab Emirates is expected to come on line in 2017.

The Agency participated in side events at the UN Climate Change Conference COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, last month.

In addition to highlighting the benefits of nuclear power in reducing greenhouse gases, Agency experts explained the support which we provide to Member States in using nuclear and isotopic techniques to tackle serious environmental challenges such as soil erosion, pollution and deteriorating water quality.

An IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century will take place in Abu Dhabi from October 30th to November 1st 2017.

Construction of the IAEA low enriched uranium (LEU) bank in Kazakhstan is proceeding on schedule. Kazakhstan expects that the Storage Facility will be commissioned and ready to receive LEU in the second half of 2017.

Mr President,

Turning now to nuclear safety, we have begun work on the Nuclear Safety Review 2017, which will be presented to our Board of Governors next March. It will reflect lessons learned from experience in nuclear safety and identify priorities for our future work to strengthen safety.   

We plan to give increased attention to issues such as the safety of radioactive sources used in industry, health care and other non-power applications.

There is widespread recognition that the world can never be complacent about nuclear safety and that a robust safety culture must be maintained everywhere.

The IAEA is the global platform for strengthening nuclear security. Countries increasingly seek our help in minimizing the risk of nuclear and other radioactive material falling into the hands of terrorists.

Last week, the second IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security took place at ministerial level in Vienna. It brought together some 2,000 participants, including more than 40 ministers, from over 130 Member States.

The Ministerial Declaration which they adopted welcomed the positive impact of the IAEA’s increasing nuclear security efforts.

A key nuclear security instrument, the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), finally came into force in May this year, 11 years after it was adopted.

I encourage all countries to adhere to the Convention and the Amendment.

Mr President,

I will now turn to nuclear verification. 

The IAEA implements safeguards in 181 States, 174 of which have Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements in force.

As Director General, I have encouraged countries to implement the additional protocol, a powerful verification tool that gives the Agency greater access to information and locations.

The number of countries with additional protocols in force has risen to 129 today from 93 in 2009.

Mr President,

The Agency worked from 2003 onwards to verify Iran’s nuclear programme. Our work was indispensable in paving the way for the diplomatic breakthrough achieved last year in the form of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

This is a very important agreement, which represents a clear gain for nuclear verification in Iran.

We are now verifying and monitoring Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA. This work will continue for many years.

In order for this agreement to be successful, full implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments is essential.

Mr President,

I remain seriously concerned about the nuclear programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which has conducted two more nuclear tests this year.

I again call upon the DPRK to comply fully with its obligations under Security Council resolutions, to cooperate promptly with the Agency, and to resolve all outstanding issues.

The Agency maintains its readiness to play an essential role in verifying the DPRK’s nuclear programme. 

In the case of Syria, you may recall that, in May 2011, I reported that it was very likely that a building destroyed at the Dair Alzour site was a nuclear reactor which should have been declared to the Agency.

I again urge Syria to cooperate fully with the Agency in connection with unresolved issues.

Mr President,

In recent years, the Agency has demonstrated its ability to successfully manage large-scale projects. We have responded swiftly to crises such as the Ebola and Zika viruses.

We significantly increased the proportion of women in senior positions, although more needs to be done in this area.

Work is now well underway on the Agency’s Programme and Budget for 2018-2019.

We remain very conscious of the continued financial constraints in many Member States and have been actively implementing efficiency measures to ensure optimal use of our limited resources.

Nevertheless, new and growing demand from Member States for Agency services will require a modest increase in our Budget.

Mr President,

The IAEA will face many challenges in all areas of its work in the coming years.

I am confident that, thanks to the high calibre of our staff and the strong support of our Member States in providing the resources we need, we will continue to deliver the high standards of service which our Member States expect.  

Thank you.

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