Statement by Ambassador Abdul Samad Minty, South Africa’s Governor to the IAEA Board of Governors at the IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Vienna, 4 March 2009
AGENDA ITEM 5: APPOINTMENT OF THE DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE IAEA
Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts on the importance of the election of the next Director General of the IAEA. Indeed this Board, like no other before, is faced with a decision that will have a fundamental impact on, and shape the manner in which the Agency will implement its mandate in the next decade and beyond.
Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei has led the Agency with great dignity, dedication and professionalism. The next Director General will need to maintain the Agency’s impartiality and integrity and build upon its high standard to meet future challenges and opportunities.
It is opportune to recall that after the ruin of the Second World War and the terrible demonstration of the destructive power of the atom, we collectively resolved through the Charter of the United Nations not only to save future generations from the scourge of war and destruction, but also to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom. In this regard, we have committed ourselves to, as elaborated in the Charter, employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.
In this context President Eisenhower laid out his vision to finding the way by which “the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life”.
Out of this vision the IAEA has developed into the leading international organisation seeking to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of nuclear energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world, but without contributing to any military purpose.
Being conscious of why we were established we can in unison, and with determination, take steps to proactively steer the Agency in a direction to deal with challenges facing us without deviating from its “raison d’être”.
We need to recognise that the Agency is not an island, but is influenced by our common objective to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. Nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation are mutually reinforcing processes that require continuous and irreversible progress on both fronts.
However, I believe that the Agency is not a forum to conduct negotiations to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons, but rather plays a unique complementary role as demonstrated by the Agency’s role in verifying South Africa’s nuclear disarmament process.
The Agency is again, as has happened in the past, faced with the reality that the use of nuclear energy, especially for power generation, is being seriously considered by Member States, and indeed some have already taken steps to build new reactors. Every year the Agency’s membership is growing and more demands are placed to also enlarge the contribution of nuclear energy to human development.
I, therefore, firmly believe that the Agency will need to address the challenges of ensuring the safe and secure use of nuclear energy, enhance its crucial contribution to the improvement of living standards and the combating of poverty, which will contribute to strengthen international peace and security.
I further believe that the Agency’s safeguards system, which plays an essential role in verifying that civil nuclear programmes remain peaceful, needs to be strengthened even further. This system is indispensable to provide the confidence that would enable States to enhance the contribution of nuclear energy to health and prosperity.
The enhancement of safeguards as well as measures to ensure the safe and secure use of nuclear energy needs to be constantly updated and adapted to changing circumstances and the improvement and development of technology.
An important role of the Director General is to proactively deal with these issues and ensure that Member States have all the factual information necessary to facilitate decisions that would guide the Director General and staff.
We cannot afford another Three-Mile Island or Chernobyl incident, nor can we become complacent and reactive.
We also need to recognise that knowledge maintenance and competence building in nuclear sciences will remain of high priority. All our efforts to develop relevant safety standards and nuclear law, and to ensure their effective and broad application, will be futile if nuclear education and training is not enhanced.
In this context, the Agency’s Technical Co-operation programme remain central to its activities and developing countries have largely benefitted from the Agency’s assistance and co-operation, thereby facilitating their accelerated economic progress and their achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
A future Director General would need to work to further enhance the work and improve the efficiency of this programme.
The Director General of the Agency should be provided with adequate human and financial resources to enable the Agency to perform its responsibilities in an effective manner. We also need to consider and respond appropriately to the challenges that will impact on the Agency’s ability to perform its responsibilities.
We are all too well aware of the reality that resources are limited and therefore we have to adapt to do more with less and use what we have in the most efficient manner possible with the least number of personnel.
The Agency’s budget is driven by programmes that Member States have agreed are important to pursue. Furthermore, increase in membership, focus on the role of nuclear energy, including in power generation, will increase demands on the Agency with regard to all its major programmes.
Although there are promising signals of more resources, the Agency would continue to be faced with constraints on its financial resources. A zero real growth budget would remain the desired objective and would need to be implemented in a realistic manner taking into consideration the demands being placed on the Agency.
It remains of critical importance that the Agency’s infrastructure, including its verification infrastructure, should not be allowed to deteriorate to the point where its complete collapse and subsequent replacement, would be prohibitively expensive. It is in the interest of the Agency’s independence and credibility that its laboratories function at an optimum level.
It remains important to continue to use resources in the most efficient manner possible and where possible identify savings and actively pursue efficiency gains, such as through the implementation of integrated safeguards and the implementation of the Agency-wide Information System for Programme Support (AIPS) and the International Public Accounting Standards (IPSAS).
As Director General I would endeavour to facilitate a process to have a renewed look at issues such as host country agreements to determine what enhanced role the host government can play in facilitating our work here in Vienna.
Our working methodologies should be kept under review so as to keep pace with changing circumstances and to enhance efficiency.
Furthermore, there needs to be increased internal co-ordination and synergies between various departments and different programme managers to facilitate the efficient use of resources, including those available to technical co-operation.
It is incumbent upon all of us to promptly pay our assessed contributions, including the voluntary contributions to the Technical Co-operation Fund, and those in arrears of their regular budget contributions need to be engaged to implement payment plans to eradicate such arrears.
Although extra-budgetary contributions are welcome, it should be realised that it is more desirable in the interest of good governance that the regular budget be adapted to changing priorities rather than creating a reliance on such funding.
The Agency’s human resources are its most valuable asset. Weak and demoralised staff will negatively affect the implementation of the major programmes of the Agency and lead to a waste in scarce resources.
The Agency invests significant amounts of resources to train specialists, especially in relation to safeguards and other specialist areas. The Agency needs to ensure that it obtain from these specialists the best and most sustainable service.
It is important, in co-operation with the Staff Council, to address issues affecting staff morale, such as the staff rotation policy, extensions, pay and internal promotion.
Although the Agency is for many not a life long career, it is important that the Agency has a balanced approach in retaining core competencies and ensure the continued and responsible turn over of staff.
The staff of the Agency must reflect its diverse membership and gender balance. The Agency must also cater for staff members with special needs.
However, the overriding principle, in accordance with the Statute, is that staff numbers should be kept to the minimum and this should continue to guide a Director General in managing the Agency.
There have been views expressed about the so-called “political” role of the IAEA. Suffice to recall that although the Agency has a specific technical role, it is also mandated to report to the United Nations Security Council. This unique role differentiates it from other technical international organisations, and therefore the Agency by its very nature has a political role. However, we should take care neither to over-emphasise nor ignore this role.
Through an inclusive and consultative leadership, and given South Africa’s unique experience related to nuclear issues, and our dedication to reach across diverse groups, I will devote myself to forge a consensus on issues of importance to the Agency.
I also believe that this experience would contribute to the vision of an Agency that would transform to enlarge the contribution of nuclear energy in a world where we move forward in unison, trust and confidence, to use atoms only for peace.
I thank you.
Department of Foreign Affairs
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05 March 2009.