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5 November 2013 | New York, USA
United Nations General Assembly

Statement to Sixty-Eighth Regular Session of United Nations General Assembly

by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

Mr. President,

Access to modern science and technology is essential for achieving all of the Millennium Development Goals.

The IAEA gives priority to assisting developing countries in using nuclear technology in areas including health, food and agriculture, and water management. By making nuclear technology available through our technical cooperation programme, the IAEA makes a unique and lasting contribution to achiving the MDGs.

Globally, health and nutrition make up the largest proportion of IAEA spending on technical cooperation. We have been working ever more closely with other UN specialized agencies, such as the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, in order to achieve more effective programme implementation. The Agency pays particular attention to training skilled personnel in the use of nuclear technology. We are also making increasing use of cost-effective e-learning tools.

Mr. President,

Cancer is reaching epidemic proportions in developing countries, but many countries lack the resources to deal with it. In fact, several dozen African nations have absolutely no radiotherapy facilities. Cancers which are increasingly treatable in developed countries are all too often fatal.

The IAEA, together with the World Health Organisation, is playing its part by helping to make radiotherapy, medical physics, nuclear medicine, and imaging services available to developing countries. Our Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) has been recognized by Member States as a flagship IAEA programme.

But our efforts are just a drop in a vast ocean of human suffering. The world needs to mobilize its resources against cancer in a systematic way. This crisis must be addressed with a multipronged international effort to build awareness, develop diagnosis and treatment centres and train medical professionals.

Mr. President,

Tsetse flies infest vast areas of Africa. They transmit a parasitic disease which devastates livestock herds and spreads "sleeping sickness" among human beings. The IAEA is working closely with the African Union to help create tsetse-free zones, using the Sterile Insect Technique and other methods.

The Sterile Insect Technique is essentially a form of contraception for tsetse flies. Male flies which are mass-produced in special facilities are sterilised using radiation. The sterile males are then released into affected areas, where they mate with wild females. These do not produce offspring. This technique can eventually eradicate entire populations of tsetse flies, as happened in Zanzibar in 1999. In recent years, significant progress has been made suppressing tsetse flies in Ethiopia and Senegal by using the Sterile Insect Technique and conventional methods.

Together with 13 countries in the Sahel region of Africa, the IAEA is working to alleviate severe water shortages which have caused a humanitarian crisis. Underground aquifers that store fresh water span national borders in the region. The IAEA helps countries to measure and monitor these shared fresh water supplies suing nuclear isotopic techniques. This provides the data to enable policy-makers to develop a strategic plan for managing these vital resources.

Responding to concerns among Member States about climate change, the new Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre started work this year at the IAEA Environmental Laboratories in Monaco. This enhances our efforts to promote a comprehensive approach to the study, monitoring and protection of marine, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems. The annual IAEA Scientific Forum in September was entitled The Blue Planet: Nuclear Applications for a Sustainable Marine Environment.

I informed the General Assembly a year ago about my plans to modernize the eight IAEA nuclear applications laboratories near Vienna. These do essential work in assisting with the transfer of nuclear science and technology to developing countries in areas such as human and animal health, food security and safety, agriculture, and environmental monitoring. My proposal has received strong support from Member States and we hope to complete the modernization in 2017. This will be a priority for the Agency over the next four years.

Mr. President,

Nuclear safety and security remain a matter of high priority for the IAEA.

The Agency has continued to assist Japan in dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The recent leak of contaminated water was a clear reminder of the continuing impact of the accident. The IAEA has recommended that Japan establish an effective plan and mechanisms for the long-term management of contaminated water. The announcement by the Japanese Government of a basic policy for addressing this issue was an important step forward. An IAEA team will carry out a follow-up mission to Japan later this year.

Steady progress has been made in implementation of the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, which was agreed by our General Conference in 2011. The Agency has continued the series of post-Fukushima international expert meetings, with sessions on issues including decommissioning and remediation after a nuclear accident, and human and organizational factors in nuclear safety. Member States have recognized the central role of the IAEA in promoting international cooperation in nuclear safety. A comprehensive IAEA report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident will be finalized in 2014.

In June this year, a Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century took place in St. Petersburg, Russia. One of the key messages was that, for many countries, nuclear power will play an important role in achieving energy security and sustainable development goals. The IAEA has a unique role in assisting governments, operators and regulators in understanding their international obligations and national responsibilities concerning nuclear power, as well as in adopting international standards and best practices.

Mr. President,

The Agency's activities in nuclear security continue to develop, in response to the wishes of Member States. The IAEA provides a broad range of services to help ensure that nuclear and other radioactive material, as well as nuclear facilities, are properly protected.

In July this year, we hosted an International Conference on Nuclear Security to review past achievements and current approaches, and to identify priorities for the future. This was the first such conference at ministerial level, open to all IAEA Member States, and one of the largest conferences ever held by the Agency. Ministers adopted a Declaration with a firm commitment to strengthen nuclear security. They also affirmed the IAEA's central role in strengthening the global nuclear security framework.

In the coming years, we will build on the success of the Conference with the aim of ensuring that all Member States share a common understanding of the threat of nuclear terrorism and the neasures needed to address it.

I continue to encourage countres to address an important area of unfinished business in nuclear security: ratification of the Amendment to the Convention on teh Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

The Amendment would expand coverage of the Convention to include the protection of nuclear material in domestic use, storage and transport, and the protection of nuclear facilities against sabotage. Eight years after its adoption, the Amendment has still not entered into force. I call upon all States to adhere to the Amendement and I hope that it will enter into force in the near future.

Mr. President,

Turning now to nuclear verification, I can inform the General Assembly that IAEA safeguards agreements are now in force with 181 States.

However, twelve non-nuclear-weapon States have yet to meet their obligation under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to conclude a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the Agency. For these States, we cannot draw any safeguards conclusions. I urge all these States to conclude comprehensive safeguards agreements as soon as possible.

I am pleased to report that the nubmer of States iwth additional protocols to their safeguards agreements in force continues to rise. It now stands at 121. This is very encouraging because 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.

The IAEA has been working for several years to improve the operational effectiveness of our safeguards laboratories. The new Nuclear Material Laboratory building was completed a few months ago, on schedule and within budget. The lab should be operational within 18 months, giving the Agency a modern capability for analysis of nuclear samples.

I continue to report to the IAEA board of Governors on safeguards implementaiton in three countries in particular - the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the Syrian Arab Republic.

The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. However, we are unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. The Agency therefore cannot conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.

Last week, a productive meeting addressing past and present issues related to Iran's nuclear programme took place in Vienna.

Iran presented a new proposal on practical measures as a constructive contribution to strengthening cooperation and dialogue with a view to the future resolution of all outstanding issues.

Following the substantive discussions, it was decided that a further meeting will be held on 11 November in Tehran in order to take this cooperation forward.

Mr. President,

I remain seriously concerned about the nuclear programme of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The DPRK's statements concerning a third nucelar test and its intention to restart its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, together with its previous statements about uranium enrichment activities and the construciton of a light water reactor, are deeply regrettable. Such actions are clear violations of relevant Security Council resolutions.

The Agency has not been able to implement any verification measures in the DRPK since April 2009. I call upon the DPRK to fully comply with its obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions, and with the NPT, and to cooperate promptly and fully with the Agency.

In the case of Syria, you will recall that, in May 2011, I reported that it was very likely that a building destroyed at the Dair Alzour site was a nuclear reactor which should have been declared to the Agency. The Agency has not received any new information that would affect that assessment.

I again urge Syria to cooperate fully with the Agency in connection with unresolved issues related to the Dair Alzour site and other locations.

Mr. President,

On December 8, it will be 60 years since President Eisenhower gave his historic Atoms for Peace speech to the General Assembly. He called for the establishment of an international atomic energy agency to put nuclear material to use to "serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind."

Four years later, in 1957, the IAEA began work in Vienna. Since then, the Agency has worked hard to bring the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology to all parts of the globe and to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. The world has changed enormously in that time. But the Atoms for Peace mission has lost none of its relevance. The Agency has successfully adapted to changing times and the evolving needs of Member States.

When I took office in December 2009, I pledged to pursue the multiple objectives of the IAEA in a balanced manner. My goal has been to ensure that the IAEA is an effective, well-managed technical organization, with high ethical standards, that delivers concrete results and makes a real difference to our Member States. That will remain my objective during my second term as Director General.

I look forward to continuing to work fruitfully with our Member States and our partner organizations within the UN family, in the interest of the people of the whole world.

Thank you, Mr. President.