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Remarks at Memorial Ceremony for Director General Yukiya Amano

Vienna, Austria
Cornel Feruță

Mrs Amano, Distinguished Guests, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues,

I would like first to acknowledge the presence of former President Fischer of Austria, Austrian Foreign Minister Schallenberg, Deputy Foreign Minister Suzuki of Japan, UNOV Director General Fedotov, CTBTO Executive Secretary Zerbo, Wassenaar Arrangement Head Griffiths, OECD/NEA Director General Magwood, as well as of the senior officials representing other organizations and ambassadors and diplomats of our Member States. Some present today came from afar and we appreciate your effort. We are humbled by your solidarity with the IAEA family.

It is barely  a month since we were shaken by the death of Director General Amano.

His loss is irreplaceable. Our deepest sympathy is with you and your family, Mrs. Amano.

I hope that the many tributes to DG Amano – from world leaders, from his many friends and from colleagues who knew him throughout his distinguished career – are a source of at least some consolation for you.

For those of us who worked with DG Amano, it is still very hard to grasp that the man who led the IAEA so effectively for nearly 10 years is no longer with us.

We are greatly saddened by his loss. But we have many happy memories of the time we worked together.

DG Amano was a highly skilled diplomat. We all know that. He possessed absolute integrity. He was a man of shrewd judgement. He had an analytical mind. He was a strategic thinker who thought deeply about issues. He could see several moves ahead and often correctly anticipated how a complex issue might develop. That is a rare gift.

 But the man whom I was privileged to work closely with for six years was also warm, quick-witted and funny. Even at the most stressful moments, he could lighten the atmosphere with a humorous remark.

He took his work very seriously indeed. But he did not take himself too seriously. He was without self-importance.

DG Amano related easily to people at all levels, regardless of their seniority. Staff remember him queuing for lunch in the cafeteria and chatting to colleagues at the table.

He especially liked meeting students and young people and often spoke at universities around the world. He enjoyed talking to IAEA interns and made them laugh with self-deprecating stories about his student days and his early career as a young diplomat.

I am sure all of us remember him dancing happily at the IAEA Ball with you, Mrs Amano – and what an elegant couple you made!

He was fascinated by nuclear science and technology, which he believed could make a great contribution to development. Doctors, engineers and scientists were often very impressed by the depth of his technical understanding and his wish to learn more.

DG Amano believed strongly in the benefits of nuclear science and technology.

When he met government leaders, he could explain the great value of nuclear applications with tremendous passion and energy. I remember his eyes lighting up as he saw people take a real interest in the subject for the first time.

The impact of the IAEA’s work on ordinary people always came first for DG Amano. He spoke with feeling about meeting farmers and fishermen and cancer patients whose lives had been changed for the better by the IAEA. It was important to him that the Agency brought real improvements to people’s lives. His decision to change the IAEA motto to Atoms for Peace and Development will be part of his legacy – and ours, too.

Among DG Amano’s many achievements in the last 10 years, I will single out just three.

First, the way he handled the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Despite the immense sadness he felt at the disaster in his homeland caused by the tsunami, he acted quickly to ensure effective international assistance to Japan and convened a ministerial conference, which agreed significant enhancements to global nuclear safety.

 Second, the modernisation of the IAEA nuclear applications laboratories at Seibersdorf. This was a project very dear to DG Amano’s heart. It was very much his idea and he worked tirelessly to ensure the necessary funding was raised. The new laboratories now taking shape in Seibersdorf will serve as a monument to his memory.

Third, in the area of safeguards and verification. International confidence in the credibility and impartiality of IAEA safeguards increased further under DG Amano’s leadership. During his tenure, the number of Additional Protocols in force increased from 94 to 134. That is a major achievement. On the specific issue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran, the  Agency was not a party to the 2015 agreement, but DG Amano’s close involvement – often behind the scenes – and his presence at key meetings, helped to build confidence among the parties.

Mrs Amano, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, we pay tribute to a great IAEA Director General.

We mourn his loss. We miss his leadership and his wise counsel. 

But amidst the sadness, we are grateful for DG Amano’s example of dedicated public service, and of a full life, well-lived. He was proud to lead the Agency, proud of its excellent staff, and proud of its ability to make a real and lasting difference to the lives of the people of the world.

We, for our part, were proud to have him as our Director General.

The IAEA will honour his legacy in the way he would have wished – by remaining an organisation of excellence that contributes in a very concrete way to international peace and security, and to the well-being and prosperity of the world.

Thank you.

Last update: 03 Dec 2019

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