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Keynote Address at Symposium on Nuclear Applications for Sustainable Development in GCC Member States

Shuwaikh, Kuwait

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano delivers keynote address at the Symposium's opening ceremony. (Photo: R. Harman/IAEA)

Dr. Shihab-Eldin, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Morning.

It is a pleasure to be with you today. I thank His Highness, the Prime Minister, Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, and the Government of the State of Kuwait, for hosting this Symposium on Nuclear Applications for Sustainable Development in GCC Member States.

I am grateful to the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research and the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences for their support in organising this important event.

And I thank the Arab Fund for inviting us to hold the Symposium in this wonderful facility.

The IAEA is best known for its work in helping to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. However, our mandate is much broader than nuclear non-proliferation.

Our mission is also to share the benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology to help countries achieve their development goals.

I often summarise the IAEA’s mandate as Atoms for Peace and Development.

The IAEA has been contributing effectively to sustainable development in areas such as food and agriculture, human health, and water resource and environmental management for decades.

Member States determine their own development priorities. We help them to achieve their goals in areas where nuclear science and technology have a special contribution to make.

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 include goals on poverty, hunger, human health, clean water, affordable and clean energy, and climate change. 

We already work closely with our Member States in these areas.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Each country’s priorities are different. Here in Kuwait, for example, as well as in other Gulf States, the IAEA technical cooperation programme has a strong focus on human health, especially on nuclear medicine.

We also work with our Gulf counterparts on a broad range of issues, including food safety, the environment, developing new varieties of food crops such as barley, and water management.

In other parts of the world, there may be different priorities.

I recently visited six countries in Central America. They, and other countries throughout Latin America, face an immediate public health challenge with the outbreak of the Zika virus.

This is a disease carried by mosquitoes which is a particular threat to women in the early months of pregnancy.

The World Health Organization recently declared Zika a global health emergency. The IAEA is now mobilizing its resources to provide rapid assistance to the countries concerned.

This will include providing portable equipment that will allow for rapid detection of the Zika virus in the field, and training our local partners in how to use it.

The same nuclear-derived technology was made available by the Agency in 2014 to help countries in West Africa respond to the Ebola virus outbreak.

One approach which we have helped a number of countries to use successfully against insect pests is known as the Sterile Insect Technique.

This involves the use of radiation to sterilize male insects on a mass scale. These are then released into the wild to mate, but no viable offspring are produced and the insect population declines.

The IAEA’s Insect Pest Control Laboratory in Austria has had great success in deploying this technique to control fruit flies, tsetse flies and other significant insect pests, with considerable benefits for Member States. Our researchers are now developing the technique for use against mosquitoes, including those that carry Zika.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Insect Pest Control Laboratory is one of eight IAEA nuclear applications laboratories that are located just outside Vienna.

These laboratories are unique within the UN system. They play an essential role in supporting our work in food and agriculture, human health, the environment and the use of nuclear instrumentation.

They underpin many of the services and benefits that we provide under our Technical Cooperation Programme.

For example, more than 80 fellows and scientific visitors from Kuwait have spent time at the laboratories, receiving training in areas such as radiation safety, isotope hydrology and the environment.

They work with some of the top international scientists in their fields and return home to share their expertise with their colleagues.

However, the IAEA nuclear applications laboratories are more than 50 years old and urgently in need of modernisation.

We have therefore embarked on a 31-million-euro renovation, known as the ReNuAL project, to ensure that the laboratories will be fit-for-purpose and able to respond to emerging challenges facing Member States.

More than 150 countries, including member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, benefit from the work of the laboratories.

I thank the host country, Kuwait, for its generous contribution but we still need funding to enable us to complete the modernisation. I appeal to all countries of the GCC to contribute to this vitally important project.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The best known peaceful application of nuclear technology is nuclear power.

Energy is indispensable for development. Many countries believe nuclear power can help them to address the twin challenges of ensuring reliable energy supplies, while curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

As you probably know, the United Arab Emirates has launched a major nuclear power programme and is building four reactors, in close cooperation with the IAEA.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

While I touched upon nuclear power briefly, non-power applications of nuclear technology are the focus of this Symposium.

In the next few days, you will have an opportunity to learn much more about the work of the IAEA and our partnership with the countries of the GCC.

My IAEA colleagues and I look forward to learning more about your priorities and concerns.

I hope you find this Symposium a useful discussion platform and if so, we could consider organizing similar events in the region in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish you all a very productive and successful Symposium.

Thank you.


Last update: 25 Nov 2019

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