General Assembly: 36th plenary meeting, 76th session
Delegates called for innovative ways to foster cooperation in overcoming growing divergence in the non-proliferation arena, as the General Assembly took up the annual report of the International Atomic Energy Agency alongside a related draft resolution.
During the morning-long debate, speakers commended the Agency’s broad efforts ‑ from providing much-needed assistance to manage the COVID‑19 pandemic to enhancing efforts to move towards peaceful uses of nuclear energy and achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), introducing the Agency’s annual report for 2020, said its activities went on throughout the pandemic to curb the diversion of nuclear material from peaceful activities and help countries detect and diagnosis the COVID‑19 virus. The IAEA Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action project, known as ZODIAC, builds on this work and has created a network of countries and laboratories from all continents, including partners from the United Nations system, to prepare for future outbreaks. Member States will have access to nuclear and other related technology packages, expertise, guidance and training.
Many delegates shared the benefits of working with the Agency, including its ZODIAC project. Launched in 2020 to help the world prepare for future pandemics, the initiative is already reaching 140 States. Speakers agreed that such IAEA efforts are giving developing countries the assistance they need to build resilience and address national challenges, from health care to infrastructure and safety. Delegates stressed that, as the world’s focal point to promote peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the Agency can help countries meet the needs and challenges of the twenty-first century by ensuring equitable access to nuclear materials, technology and equipment for peaceful purposes.
India’s representative noted the Agency’s critical role in helping Member States meet their energy needs in a sustainable way using nuclear energy. India, for example, has augmented its nuclear power capacity with its first indigenous, 700-megawatt pressurized heavy water reactor. It is using nuclear applications in cancer treatments and is part of IAEA’s Response and Assistance Network, sharing its knowledge and expertise in radiation technologies with partner States.
Several delegates raised continued concerns, with some urging Iran, Syria and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to comply with commitments and cooperate with IAEA.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, highlighted the bloc’s support for the upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference and the establishment of a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone. Diplomatic solutions are needed to address continued proliferation crises that threaten international and regional peace and security. She urged Iran, for example, to reverse all activities inconsistent with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, return to its full implementation, and cooperate with IAEA to resolve pending safeguards issues. She also urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to begin a credible path towards complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. Until this happens, the European Union will strictly enforce existing sanctions and urge all countries to do the same.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the IAEA report is prejudiced and inappropriate as his country is not a member State of the Agency and IAEA has neither the justification nor qualification to claim any “verification” of or “supervision” over the country. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has nothing to do with the Treaty and IAEA and sees no reason to implement the Safeguards Agreement.
Iran’s delegate emphasized that safeguards-related verification activities should support the Agency’s principal role of promoting nuclear science and technology applications. Actions by the United States, including its unlawful withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May 2018 and the reimposition of illegal sanctions against Iran, have effectively prevented his country from exercising its legitimate rights as enshrined in the Plan and resolution 2231 (2015), he said.
The speaker for Pakistan said greater cooperation is required among IAEA member States to advance the Agency’s mandate as recent developments have shown the old consensus on disarmament and non-proliferation has broken down. He proposed the convening of a special Assembly session to build a new consensus that responds to current and emerging realities and offers equal security to all States, large and small. This new consensus should eliminate the discrimination and double standards that characterize the present non-proliferation arrangements, and lead to an agreed-upon basis for promoting peaceful uses of nuclear energy under appropriate international safeguards.
The speakers for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, drawing attention to the classification of IAEA members into regional groups, noted that they are among 20 member States that are not part of a regional group, which deprives them of the right to participate in significant processes, thus limiting their cooperation with the Agency. IAEA should make it a priority to resolve this inequity.
Also delivering statements were representatives of Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Singapore, Egypt, Belarus, Mexico, Algeria, Monaco, South Africa, Syria, Ukraine, Malaysia, Japan, Cuba, Lithuania, Nigeria, Philippines, Iraq, Indonesia, Guatemala and Bangladesh.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 22 November, to take up its agenda item on crime prevention and criminal justice and to take action on a draft resolution on the 2021 Political Declaration on the Implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.