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Nuclear Technology for the Sustainable Development Goals

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

(As prepared for delivery)

Your Serene Highness, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to open this year's IAEA Scientific Forum, which is dedicated to the role of nuclear technology in helping countries to achieve their development goals.  

We are honoured that His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco has agreed to join us. He has long been a steadfast supporter of the IAEA Environment Laboratories in Monaco and is extremely knowledgeable about this area of our work. He is also a tireless advocate for protecting the oceans.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals last year, they explicitly recognised – for the first time – that science, technology and innovation are essential for development.

Helping countries to achieve those goals is an IAEA priority. We are uniquely placed to help countries gain access to nuclear science and technology, which have a great deal to offer in industry, energy, health care, agriculture, environmental protection – and many other areas.

The Agency has begun celebrating its 60th anniversary this week with the motto Atoms for Peace and Development.

Transferring peaceful nuclear technology to developing countries has been a priority since the start. We have always had a special focus on capacity-building.

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

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

Many developing countries have acquired significant expertise in certain areas of nuclear technology, which they share with other developing nations. There are many excellent examples of South-South cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your discussions today and tomorrow will cover key areas of IAEA activities.

It is not an exaggeration to say that our work helps to save lives, by making radiotherapy treatment available to cancer patients. It also helps to transform lives, for example by helping farmers to grow more food.

The Sustainable Development Goals contain a commitment to reduce early deaths from non-communicable diseases, including cancer, by one third by 2030.

Many countries lack both the equipment and the trained medical and technical experts to treat cancer effectively. The Agency is working hard to help to remedy this, through our Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy – PACT – and other programmes.

We make nuclear techniques available to fight insect pests such as the tsetse fly and fruit fly, and to develop new varieties of food crops which are more resistant to drought and disease.

The Joint FAO/IAEA Division has generated more than 3,200 new varieties of foods such as wheat and rice, using nuclear techniques.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Energy is the engine of development. But over 1.1 billion people around the world still lack access to electricity, and an enormous increase in energy supply will be required over the next decades to support economic development.

Nuclear power is one of the lowest-carbon technologies available to generate electricity. Many countries believe nuclear power can help them to secure reliable energy supplies, while curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Agency actively supports countries interested in nuclear power so they can use it safely, securely and sustainably.

Isotopic techniques, which you will consider this afternoon and tomorrow morning, help scientists to improve child nutrition, to evaluate the impact of climate change and ocean acidification, to track pollutants and to provide accurate assessments of soil erosion. They also shed light on the age and quality of water.

Your final session tomorrow will consider how effective partnerships can best ensure the sustainable transfer of nuclear technology for development.

The IAEA, working with key partners, has a wealth of experience in delivering successful projects and in bringing about cooperation among developed and developing countries. Our goal, in providing access to nuclear science and technology, is to make sure that it has a lasting and beneficial impact on the lives of people, industries and economies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am grateful to the many experts, both on the podium and in the audience, who have come to share their knowledge with us at this IAEA Scientific Forum.

I am confident that you will have stimulating and thought-provoking discussions and I look forward to learning about the outcome.

Thank you. 

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Last update: 9 March 2017