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Remarks by Director General Yukiya Amano at New Year Reception

Vienna, Austria

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

(As prepared for delivery)

Dear friends and colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Happy New Year!

This is the first time we have all met since I began my third term as IAEA Director General. So let me begin by thanking all of you – the Member States of the Agency – for the confidence you have placed in me.

It is a huge privilege to lead this remarkable organization, with its unique Atoms for Peace and Development mandate.

We make an important contribution to international peace and security. Our work contributes to the health, well-being and prosperity of millions of people around the world. We face challenges in all areas of our work, but I approach my new term in a very positive spirit.

I am greatly encouraged by the active support which we receive from all of you, and by the strong interest which Member States show in the work of the IAEA.

That support was expressed in a very concrete and gratifying manner when we asked you to help us modernise the Seibersdorf laboratories. Countries have made available the resources we need, despite the financial difficulties which many of you face.

The new Insect Pest Control Laboratory was inaugurated in September. The Flexible Modular Laboratory, housing three additional labs, will be completed by the end of this year. This will mark a major milestone in the ReNuAL project, one of the most important projects ever undertaken by the Agency. Work to fully equip the new facilities, and improve the existing ones, will continue.

Seibersdorf is evolving from a collection of laboratories into a centre of nuclear technology which will be managed as an integrated complex. As a result, the Agency will be able to provide better service to Member States for decades to come.

Thank you once again for your very generous support!

Nuclear applications will also be the subject of one of the most important events of this year – the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology – which starts in Vienna on November 28th. I thank the Ambassadors of Costa Rica and Japan for leading the consultations. And I encourage all countries to be represented at ministerial level.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have just returned from Uganda, Zambia and Botswana, where government leaders expressed great appreciation for our work to make nuclear science and technology available for development.

In Uganda, I attended the inauguration of a new Cobalt-60 radiotherapy machine at the Uganda Cancer Institute, where the previous one broke down two years ago.

In Zambia, I visited the Cancer Diseases Hospital in Lusaka. I was deeply moved by what I saw there. I met a young girl who had cancer in both her kidneys. She was five years old. The doctors told me that, had she come a year ago, she could not have been treated. Now, thanks to radiotherapy, there is at least hope for her, and for the other children I met at the hospital.  I was heartened by the care, dedication and determination of staff at the hospital as they treat both children and adults, many in the late stages of cancer. It brought home to me again how vitally important the work of the IAEA is in helping countries to fight cancer.

As in virtually all countries that I visit, government leaders made it clear that they want us to do much more – not just in cancer control, but in food and agriculture, water management, and many other areas. Helping countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals through the use of relevant nuclear technology is an increasingly important part of our work. We are developing a new inter-regional technical cooperation project to help countries establish a clear link between their national TC projects and the Sustainable Development Goals, where relevant.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Iran nuclear issue will remain a high priority for the Agency in the coming years.

There is much discussion about the future of the JCPOA. For our part, we are concentrating on fully discharging our responsibility, which is verifying and monitoring Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments.

My view on the JCPOA is clear. It represents a significant gain for verification. As of today, I can state that Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments. It is essential that Iran continues to fully implement those commitments. If the JCPOA were to fail, it would be a great loss for nuclear verification, and indeed for multilateralism.

The DPRK continues to pose a threat to international peace and security through its advancing capabilities in nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. North Korea needs to change course and implement the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors.

The IAEA is the only international organization that can verify the nuclear programme of the DPRK. The Agency is working to maintain its readiness to resume its activities in North Korea when political developments make this possible.

Demands upon the Agency in the verification field generally are growing steadily because of the additional significant quantities of nuclear material that are coming under safeguards around the world.

IAEA verification activities are very robust when we are able to implement the additional protocol. Our new safeguards IT system, MOSAIC, will be completed in the first half of this year. With many more countries implementing the AP, with new systems such as MOSAIC, and with the dedication of our capable staff, our verification capabilities have made tremendous advances in recent years.

I must tell you, however, that our nuclear verification budget is very tight and we are coming close to the limit of what is do-able with existing resources. I request continuing support from Member States.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The use of nuclear power will continue to increase in the future.

It is the most important source of low-carbon energy that can be deployed on the scale needed to power a modern economy. The Agency will continue to support countries that wish to introduce nuclear power, or to expand existing programmes, safely, securely and sustainably.

This year’s IAEA Scientific Forum in September will be on the subject of Climate Change and Nuclear Technology. This is part of our efforts to raise awareness of the vitally important role of nuclear technology in both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing its consequences.

Nuclear safety and security are the responsibility of Member States, but improving international cooperation in both areas remains a priority for the Agency.

As far as safety is concerned, the Ministerial Declaration, the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety of 2011, and the IAEA Fukushima Report remain our reference points. These reflected the views of all Member States, which were involved at a high level. We should not forget the Fukushima Daiichi accident and need to continue to learn lessons.

On nuclear security, we are guided by the Ministerial Declaration adopted in December 2016, and the Nuclear Security Plan 2018-2021, which the Board adopted by consensus last September. The IAEA will continue its work as the global platform for helping countries to strengthen nuclear security.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The management of the Agency will continue to require close attention.

I am very conscious of the financial constraints which many countries face. We continue to do everything we can to improve efficiency and concentrate on activities with real added value. We also continue to find, and implement, efficiency measures proactively. Our efforts will be reflected in the draft Budget Update for 2019, which will be circulated soon.

Modest real increases in our budget in recent years have been very helpful in enabling us to address priority areas such as technical cooperation and nuclear safety and security. I count on Member States to support modest real increases in the IAEA budget in the coming years. The Agency will focus its activities on technical areas in which we have a unique competence.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Among other management issues, a long overdue reform of human resources processes and practices is making progress. I have selected a new Chief Ethics Officer, underlining my determination to promote the highest standards of integrity in the Agency. As I have said many times, there is zero tolerance in the Agency for unethical behaviour, and wrongdoing, of any kind.

The representation of women in the professional and higher categories on Agency staff is improving, but it is still not enough. My goal is to achieve gender parity among the most senior officials by 2021. I ask for the understanding and support of Member States in achieving this goal, and in helping to ensure that more qualified women apply, in particular for higher-level positions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the next four years, I will continue to focus on delivering concrete results in all areas of the Agency’s work, based on sound management.

I do not plan drastic or comprehensive changes. These often work on paper, but not in reality. I will continue to provide leadership in making adjustments where necessary, or when problems arise.

I know I can continue to count on your support, and on the dedication of our highly professional staff. Together, we will ensure that the IAEA remains an organization of excellence that makes a real difference to the lives of the people of all our Member States.

Thank you.

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