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When the IAEA was established in 1957, nuclear science and technology were in their infancy. Many Member States had no nuclear capacity at all. The IAEA’s ‘technical assistance’ programme was modest, and early projects were small in scale and short in duration. The programme focused mainly on helping developing Member States to establish basic capacity and to create national institutions and facilities that would enable them to introduce and enlarge the role of nuclear technology, or apply nuclear techniques in a safe and effective manner.

In the late 1970s, as contributions to the Technical Cooperation Fund increased and the benefits of larger projects became evident, the IAEA introduced multi-year projects.

In the early 1980s, the IAEA began to evaluate systematically the impact its technical cooperation projects were having in beneficiary countries. It was concluded that the Secretariat had responded effectively to the challenge of a rapidly growing programme and that the projects were contributing to the transfer of technology.

A review of technical cooperation activities, particularly of policy and strategic matters, was carried out in the mid-1990s. The effort sought to ensure that the programme would have a cost-efficient, direct, and measurable impact on the high-priority economic or social needs of the participating countries.

Today, the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme focuses on cooperation for sustainable socioeconomic development, building on the skills and infrastructure that Member States have acquired over the past six decades. Member States are full partners in the process, guiding the IAEA’s technical cooperation activities, setting national and regional priorities, and offering training opportunities and technical support to the IAEA and to other Member States. Technical cooperation between developing countries is facilitated and supported through regional cooperative agreements. In some regions, designated centres of expertise play an important role in sharing the benefits of nuclear science and technology among Member States.

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