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Statement to Second Conference of States Parties to African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty

Vienna Austria

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to address this Second Conference of States Parties to the Treaty of Pelindaba. I compliment the countries of Africa for their tenacity in pursuing the goal of establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone for decades, until the Treaty finally entered into force in 2009.

Nuclear-weapon-free zones are a highly effective means of non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament. The five nuclear-weapon-free zones in existence today cover a total of 113 countries. Each has its own special characteristics, but they also have many important elements in common.

All nuclear-weapon-free zones prohibit the development, stationing or testing of nuclear weapons in their respective regions. They all cover large inhabited areas. They provide for IAEA verification of the non-diversion of nuclear material. Nuclear-weapon-free zones have brought real security benefits, both regionally and to the whole world.

The Treaty of Pelindaba incorporates a number of special features, including some measures which go beyond undertakings assumed by States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) .

For example, it makes provision for the dismantling and destruction of nuclear explosive devices manufactured by a Party to the Treaty before the Treaty entered into force. It prohibits attacks on nuclear installations in the nuclear-weapon-free zone. It bars the dumping of radioactive waste within the zone.

In addition, the Treaty of Pelindaba contains a commitment to promote the use of nuclear science and technology for economic and social development. Parties are encouraged to make use of the assistance of the IAEA. They also pledge to maintain the highest standards of security and physical protection of nuclear material, facilities and equipment.

In the Preamble to the Treaty, the Parties recognise that the establishment of other nuclear-weapon-free zones, especially in the Middle East, would enhance their security.

Last November, I hosted an IAEA Forum on Experience of Possible Relevance to the Creation of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East. There is broad international support for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. But there are long-standing differences among countries of that region, and beyond, about how the issue should be approached. That is why it took 11 years to secure agreement to hold the IAEA Forum.

The Forum provided an opportunity for Member States to engage in a constructive exchange of views. However, because of the fundamental differences of views which I mentioned, it was not possible to make further progress on this important issue.

Nevertheless, I was encouraged by the positive spirit in which the Middle East Forum was conducted. One of the key lessons which I took away was that it is possible to have a constructive dialogue on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone, despite the complexity of the issue and significant differences of views among States concerned. Mistrust between key parties can be overcome in time and be replaced by mutual confidence and cooperation.

It is up to countries of the region concerned to decide whether to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone. But if they decide to do so, a multilateral component can be very helpful. The IAEA will continue to assist with the establishment of new nuclear-weapon-free zones, in the Middle East and elsewhere. I believe that a successful Conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction would be an important step forward.

Mr. Chairman,

Each Party to the Treaty of Pelindaba agrees to conclude a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA, under which the Agency verifies that that country is using nuclear technology for exclusively peaceful purposes.

Good progress has been made throughout the world in recent years in the conclusion of comprehensive safeguards agreements. Today, there are only 13 non-nuclear-weapon States under the NPT which have not brought such an agreement into force. I encourage all countries present here, which have not yet done so, to conclude and bring into force comprehensive safeguards agreements with the Agency without delay.

I also encourage all countries to bring into force an additional protocol to their safeguards agreements. The additional protocol is an essential tool for the Agency to be able to provide credible assurance that there are no undeclared nuclear material and activities in a country. Such credible assurances are highly effective tools of international and regional confidence-building. They can contribute decisively to forestalling the spread of threat perceptions and thus to reducing the risk of the further spread of nuclear weapons. So far, 119 countries have brought additional protocols into force.

Mr. Chairman,

I mentioned that the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology is a feature of the Treaty of Pelindaba. It is also one of the cornerstones of the work of the IAEA.

Through the IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme, we make important contributions to tackling fundamental global problems identified in the UN Millennium Development Goals and at Rio+20. These include poverty and hunger, energy shortages, cancer and climate change.

The IAEA is in a unique position within the UN system. We are the only organization with expertise in nuclear technologies and we help our Member States to gain access to those technologies for peaceful purposes.

For many countries, nuclear power is the most important peaceful application of nuclear technology.

Nuclear power remains a growth area globally, despite the Fukushima Daiichi accident in March 2011. Growth is likely to be slower than we anticipated before the accident. But our latest projections show a steady rise in the number of nuclear power plants in the world in the next 20 years.

Most of the new reactors which are planned or under construction are in Asia. But many developing countries, in Africa and elsewhere, are very interested in introducing nuclear power. This is understandable. Nuclear energy offers many benefits. It can help to improve energy security, reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices, mitigate the effects of climate change and make economies more competitive. It also has important non-electric applications such as seawater desalination.

The Fukushima Daiichi accident was a wake-up call for everyone involved in nuclear power. IAEA Member States responded by agreeing a detailed Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, which is now being implemented. The plan covers things like improving the ability of nuclear power plants to withstand severe earthquakes and tsunamis at nuclear power plants. More reliable back-up electricity supplies are being established at nuclear facilities in the case of blackouts. And much more.

The lasting legacy of Fukushima Daiichi will be a much more intense focus on safety. Nuclear safety remains the responsibility of individual countries. However, governments have recognized that effective international cooperation is vitally important and that the IAEA has a unique role to play.

The IAEA works very closely with what we call newcomer countries - those which are building, or plan to build, their first nuclear power plants. We help them to engage in the systematic and long-term planning that will ensure that they will be able to operate nuclear power plants safely, efficiently and profitably. The IAEA stresses the need for all countries interested in nuclear power to implement the highest safety standards. Strong, independent nuclear regulators are essential. Putting the right safety systems and infrastructure in place from the very beginning is a vital precondition for successful use of nuclear power.

Next June, an International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century will take place in St. Petersburg, Russia. It will provide a valuable opportunity to consider nuclear power's long-term contribution to sustainable development.

Mr. Chairman,

The IAEA is also active in supporting developing countries in the use of nuclear techniques in areas such as human and animal health, food security and food safety, agriculture, and environmental monitoring.

We help to increase food production in dozens of countries, often improving their export capacity in the process. We have helped to eliminate the deadly cattle disease rinderpest and to tackle outbreaks of food-and-mouth disease. We help countries to find new sources of water, using nuclear techniques, and to manage water resources more effectively.

Let me give you a few examples.

Here in Ethiopia, we have been working with the government and regional partners to eliminate the tsetse fly, which transmits the deadly disease trypanosomosis to human beings and domestic animals. This disease kills millions of animals throughout the world every year. Its economic impact is devastating. The IAEA has made available the Sterile Insect Technique, which is essentially a form of birth control for tsetse flies. Male flies are sterilized by radiation and released into the wild, where they mate with wild female flies. Because the males are sterile, there are no offspring, and the life cycle of the tsetse fly is interrupted.

The aim is to create tsetse-free zones in selected areas. Tsetse flies have been successfully eradicated from Zanzibar using this technique. It is now being deployed in the Southern Rift Valley in Ethiopia.

This year, the IAEA started a five-year project with 13 countries in the Sahel region that aims to improve management of water resources. Persistent droughts in the region have led to a humanitarian crisis. Around 1.5 million children are facing severe malnutrition and risk death from starvation or disease. Most available fresh water is located in underground aquifers which transcend national borders. However, information on these resources is inadequate. A collaborative approach to dealing with them is essential. The Sahel Project will provide much-needed information, give the countries involved the technical expertise to use the relevant nuclear techniques, and enable countries to participate as equal partners in the assessment of these aquifers.

Cancer in developing countries remains high on the Agency's agenda.

Let me tell you a story about this. In 2010, when I had been in office for just a few months, I was invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. I attended a session on breast cancer. Most of the participants were doctors or health experts from Europe and the U.S. The main issue being discussed was at what age women should start undergoing screening for breast cancer. I raised my hand and said: "You are talking about the best time to start screening. But in many developing countries, especially in Africa, millions of women have no access to screening at all. In fact, they have no access to any form of treatment."

I said it was vital that the problem of cancer in developing countries should be put high on the global health agenda. And I have made this issue a high priority for the IAEA.

Cancer was long thought of as a disease of rich countries, but that is no longer true. Today, some 70 percent of cancer cases are diagnosed in developing countries. Many of these countries are poorly prepared to respond. There is a shortage of around 5 000 radiotherapy machines in low- and middle-income countries. There are not enough well-trained specialists. As a result, around three-quarters of cancer patients are diagnosed too late for effective treatment. This means that hundreds of thousands of people are denied treatment that could save their lives.

The Agency supports over 130 projects in cancer diagnosis, management and treatment. Oncology and radiotherapy centres are being established with our support in countries such as Eritrea and Mozambique. We provide extensive training to health professionals. One of my major goals is to establish a Cancer Training Centre at our laboratory complex near Vienna within the next few years.

Mr. Chairman,

I particularly welcome the fact that the Treaty of Pelindaba contains explicit commitments on the physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities. This is extremely important. A so-called dirty bomb, using even a small quantity of radioactive material combined with conventional explosives, could have very serious consequences if detonated in a major city.

Globally, the IAEA plays the central role in helping countries to ensure that nuclear and other radioactive materials do not fall into the hands of terrorists. We established internationally accepted guidance that is used as a benchmark for nuclear security. We help countries to put laws and regulatory infrastructure in place to protect nuclear and other radioactive material. We have trained over 12 000 people in more than 120 countries in nuclear security in the last decade.

In July 2013, the Agency will organize an International Conference on Nuclear Security in Vienna. This Conference is open to all States. I urge all countries to take part at ministerial level.

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to conclude by complimenting the countries of Africa for successfully establishing this important nuclear-weapon-free zone. By doing so, you have made a major contribution to achieving the goal, which we all share, of one day establishing a world free of all nuclear weapons.

I wish you every success with this Conference. Thank you.


Last update: 26 July 2017


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