Statement by Ambassador Abdul Samad Minty, South Africa’s Governor to the IAEA Board of Governors at the IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Vienna, 26 May 2009: Appointment of the Director General of the of the IAEA
I thank you, Ambassador Feroukhi, for all your patience, impartiality and professionalism in dealing with this election process, which has entered a new phase.
At the outset I also wish to thank the African Union for its support given to my candidature, which is highly appreciated.
It is indeed an honour to have been nominated by my Government for the position of Director General and I appreciate the opportunity to share some thoughts on this important election. The decision by this Board will have a fundamental impact on, and determine the manner in which the Agency will implement its mandate in the future.
The next Director General will also be measured against the achievements of Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei who has led the Agency with great dignity, dedication and professionalism. It is imperative that a new Director General in close co-operation with the Member States maintain the Agency’s impartiality and integrity.
Since our first democratic elections in 1994, it has been a primary goal of South Africa's foreign policy to reinforce our role to responsibly deal with issues related to defence products and advanced technologies in the nuclear, biological, chemical and missile fields. In so doing, we also promote the benefits which disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control hold for international peace and security for all.
One of the main statutory bodies established to give effect to this policy is the South African Council for the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. It was an honour to have been requested to preside over this body since June 1995 and was furthermore a privilege in the same year to have been chosen by my Government to serve on the Board of Governors. Also, since that time I have gained valuable insight in the management of nuclear related industries including through my membership of the Board of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA). Furthermore, for most of my career I have been dealing with issues related to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, particularly in the sixties to eighties campaigning against military and nuclear collaboration with the Apartheid State.
I believe that the knowledge and experience gained in this context will enable me to make a valuable contribution towards finding creative solutions to deal with new questions and challenges arising from the dynamic environment in which the Agency is operating.
Following the ruins left by the horrific demonstration of the destructive power of the atom, the Congress Movement in the early 50’s arranged many peace and protest meetings in South Africa in which I took part and where we said: “No more Hiroshima. No more Nagasaki”. Clearly, the anti-nuclear weapons stance was at that time part of our struggle for liberation.
Also, affected by these events was a prominent South African businessman, the late Dr. Anton Rupert, who stated: “Since the unlocking of the power of the atom, since Hiroshima, everything has changed, except our way of thinking. In this atomic era there is no longer any country remote enough to become a place of shelter. The biblical notion that ‘I am my brother’s keeper’ has become a cold reality; depressions are now global, as is welfare. In this century where at least two nations possess enough bombs to destroy everything, we live like scorpions in a bottle, and he who wants to retain all, will lose all.”
This serves to illustrate not only our interdependence in achieving a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons but also in establishing a partnership to enlarge the contribution of the peaceful application of nuclear energy to humanity.
When President Eisenhower therefore 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”, the liberation movement in South Africa and other prominent individuals had already committed themselves to the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and the peaceful use of the atom to contribute to the advancement of humanity.
We need to recognize that growing demands are being placed on the Agency to enlarge the contribution of nuclear energy to human development. This is not just through an increase in membership but also due to increased use of nuclear energy, including for power generation.
Although decisions regarding the use of nuclear energy is a national prerogative and indeed decisions related to and the implementation of nuclear safety and security are undertaken by individual Member States, it is in our common interest that the Agency enhances its contribution on these terrains.
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.
An important role of the Director General is to proactively deal with the enhancement of safeguards as well as measures to ensure the safe and secure use of nuclear energy needs, in accordance with guidance provided by the Membership of the Agency.
Another incident, similar to those incidents at Three-Mile Island or Chernobyl must not happen and therefore we must remain vigilant and avoid being complacent and reactive.
I am reminded of 1957, just before I left South Arica. In Johannesburg where I lived, I was taking part in a school debate, I think the subject was that nuclear fission was a boon to mankind, and I was to oppose the motion. In order to get the information I needed, I managed to persuade a “white” teacher, at our Indian school, to come with me to the city hall in Johannesburg. I needed reference books and, of course, being “non-white” I couldn’t go inside. So I sat on the pavement with my feet in the gutter, between two cars, while she went in and out bringing reference books from which I made notes. We did this for three afternoons before I was able to take part in that debate. Knowledge and information were very important to us.
This experience leads me to believe that we need to recognise that nobody should be deprived of nuclear knowledge and it is important to transfer current expertise and competency in nuclear sciences to a new generation. This should be high on the agenda of a new Director General as 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 are not enhanced.
Mindful that the IAEA is not a developmental Agency, a future Director General would need to work to further enhance and improve the efficiency of the Technical Co-operation programme.
In this context, the Agency’s Technical Co-operation programme remains one of the core activities and developing countries should have the continued benefits from the Agency’s assistance and co-operation, thereby facilitating their accelerated economic progress and their achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The Agency should have adequate human and financial resources to facilitate the Agency to perform its responsibilities in an effective manner. 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.
I firmly believe in the statement of our former Minister of Finance, Mr. Trevor Manuel, that (and I quote) “Budgeting is not only about expanding expenditure on constructive and necessary activities, it is also about rooting out waste, promoting cost-efficiency and phasing out ineffective programmes”.
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).
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.
It is 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.
Our working methodologies should be kept under review so as to keep pace with changing circumstances and to enhance efficiency.
The Agency’s human resources are its most valuable asset. Demotivated staff will negatively affect the implementation of the major programmes of the Agency and lead to a waste in scarce resources. It is therefore 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.
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.
In our common objective to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, it is recognized that nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation are mutually reinforcing processes that require continuous and irreversible progress on both fronts.
Although I believe that the Agency is not a forum to conduct negotiations to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons, it indeed plays a unique complementary role as demonstrated by the Agency’s role in verifying South Africa’s nuclear disarmament process and the fulfillment of the implementation of the safeguards agreements with those States party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
Furthermore, there is a distinct possibility that the Conference on Disarmament could soon commence negotiations on a verifiable Fissile Material Treaty. The Agency would need to be ready to play a role in the verification process of such a treaty, if called upon to do so.
There have been views expressed about the so-called “political” role of the IAEA. In this context, we should recognize that although the Agency has a specific technical role, it is also mandated to report to the United Nations Security Council in the context of issues within the competence of the Security Council, including issues of non-compliance with safeguards agreements. 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.
In conclusion, Chairperson,
I will devote myself to build consensus on issues of importance to the Agency through, among others, an inclusive and consultative leadership.
My vision is an Agency that would transform to enlarge the contribution of nuclear energy in a world where we move forward in mutual trust and confidence, to use atoms only for peace.
I thank you.