The Holy See
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Vienna (Austria)
Wednesday, 22 September 2004


Mr President,

On behalf of the Holy See Delegation, I would like to congratulate you on your election as President of the 48th General Conference and I assure you and the Secretariat of the full support of my Delegation in making this conference a success.

A glance at the numerous activities carried out in 2003 makes it clear that the scope of the Agency's work, has continued to expand. Due in no small way to the leadership of Director General ElBaradei and the dedication of the entire Secretariat, the IAEA was able to respond in an efficient manner to numerous challenges in all areas of its work - preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, improving and strengthening nuclear safety, and helping to develop the peaceful uses of nuclear technology for sustainable development - and thus make a unique contribution to the goals of peace and prosperity in the world.

Mr President,

The acts of violence recently perpetrated in Russia and in other parts of the world gravely offend all humanity. The continued violations of human dignity and the innocent victims of terrorism draw the attention of all to the need to face the causes which underlie such modern forms of barbarism and to deal with them effectively. We must also continue to believe in dialogue as essential to establishing peace and security.

Continued threats to peace and stability due to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and humanitarian and environmental emergencies call for firm and far-reaching responses. Director General ElBaradei declared not long ago:  "We must also begin to address the root causes of insecurity. In areas of longstanding conflict like Middle East, South Asia and the Korean Peninsula, the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction - while never justified - can be expected as long as we fail to introduce alternatives that redress the security deficit". The response of the international community must be an integral one, combining security, solidarity and the defence of human life.

From various quarters, we have been warned that nuclear proliferation is on the rise and that there are countries interested in the illicit acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. There is also a risk that terrorists will gain access to such materials and technology. In this context, we need to agree on certain measures to ensure that nuclear "business as usual" cannot continue. The NPT has contributed to international peace and security, but still has much to accomplish, and the international community must work harder to diminish the risks of nuclear proliferation and develop a framework more suited to the realities of the 21st century. Better control over the export of nuclear material and the universalization of the export control system are necessary. Consequently, there is a need to give more authority to inspectors, as the recent discovery of an illicit market for nuclear material and equipment makes clear.

With regard to the Middle East, my Delegation shares the concerns about the growing signs of rising insecurity, due to the ongoing war in Iraq and its security implications for the region and the unresolved conflict in the Holy Land. Respect for the legitimate aspirations of both sides, a return to the negotiating table and the concrete engagement of the international community can lead towards a solution acceptable to all. For this, it is desirable that all the countries of the region and the international community initiate a serious dialogue for creating a Middle East region free of weapons of mass destruction. This, together with limitations on conventional armaments and appropriate security and confidence-building measures, can contribute to establishing peace in the region.

The Technical Cooperation Programme of the Agency is one of the principal instruments for transferring nuclear science and technology to Member States in order to promote social and economic development. Its initiatives, when tailored to the needs of the recipient states and their partners in the context of national priorities, help to fight poverty and can thus contribute to a more peaceful solution of the serious problems facing mankind.

My Delegation notes with satisfaction the efforts which have been made to improve the programme and the support from Member States, indicated by the resources made available for the improvement of socio-economic conditions through the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, from which 110 countries on all continents have benefited. To ensure success, all Member States must contribute to the collective effort, indicating in this way their commitment to overcoming the chronic uncertainty which affects the technical cooperation fund.

Nuclear and isotopic techniques have increasingly proved helpful in serving basic human needs and in addressing great challenges - especially in the developing world. The research activities and technical cooperation projects carried out in recent years or still in progress continue to yield encouraging results and indicate innovative ways of tackling problems which affect a great number of people in their daily lives. The efforts of the IAEA in this field are much appreciated and should continue in fruitful cooperation and partnership with the recipient countries.

These peaceful applications of nuclear techniques can make a significant contribution to responding to the most urgent concerns in many ways, e.g., the management of drinking-water supplies, the production of crops which give an improved yield or have a greater salt tolerance in arid climates, the eradication of disease-bearing and otherwise harmful pests in an environmentally beneficial manner. Among other things, they can be effectively used in the study of child malnutrition and in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. In this context, I wish to mention the particular role of radionuclides used in the diagnosis and treatment of malignant diseases. My Delegation wishes to express its appreciation for what has been achieved in the field of nuclear medicine with the assistance of the IAEA. But much still remains to be done, and the Agency should continue to pursue its significant efforts in this domain.

Recently the Agency, together with the WHO, has drawn attention to yet another impending crisis affecting millions of people especially in the developing countries. The number of patients suffering from cancer is rising dramatically, while resources and equipment to diagnose and treat the disease are very limited or even lacking in many countries. Almost 13% of all deaths worldwide are caused by cancer (more than by tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS put together). Already today there are more new cancer cases every year in developing countries than in the industrialized ones, and cancer rates there are expected to increase substantially within the next decade.

Radiation therapy is one of the fundamental treatments of cancer, and more than 50% of the patients diagnosed with this disease would benefit from that kind of therapy either applied alone or in conjunction with surgery and chemotherapy. Yet, in the developing world, more than half of the number of patients suffering from cancer will not have access to radiotherapy due to the lack of appropriate equipment and sufficiently trained staff with expertise in clinical and medical physics.

The Holy See appreciates all the work and efforts of the IAEA and its partners in the planning and furthering of cancer-control programmes, which include the provision and upgrading of essential equipment, and the suitable training of medical doctors, physicists and technicians, as well as the worldwide exchange of relevant information. One of the main tasks of the IAEA has been to develop and refine standards and Codes of Practice in medical radiation dosimetry. The worldwide network of standard dosimetry laboratories, supported for many years by the IAEA and the WHO, provides calibration services to hospitals especially in the developing countries in order to assist their quality assurance programmes.

The Agency will hopefully continue to pursue and strengthen all these eminently important activities. Its recently launched Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), which aims at increasing its capacity to assist Member States in the tremendous task of fighting against cancer and creating regional centres of excellence for radiotherapy, will be successful, provided donor countries and organizations generously support this initiative.

Mr President,

The considerable efforts of the IAEA to enhance nuclear and radiation safety, to point out ways and methods for the safe use of radioactive sources, and to help retrieve abandoned sources make a significant contribution to minimizing dangers and preventing harm to the public as well as to individuals. The Agency is actively engaged in fostering a safety culture in the application of nuclear techniques and ionizing radiation, and needs to continue its work in this field. The progress in upgrading radiation protection infrastructures in many regions contributes to enhanced safety and provides a real benefit, but the goal has not yet been attained and should be pursued continuously.

At the same time, another daunting task is that of enhancing the security of nuclear material and infrastructure, which is still a concern and requires efficient and intense cooperation between the International Organizations and individual States.

The Agency's activities extend to many fields. Its success, however, should not cause us to rest on our laurels. We cannot presume that our work is completed, but we must constantly strive to reach our goal.

Thank you, Mr President.

*L'Osservatore Romano 27-28.9.2004 p.2.

L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n.41 p.9.