Morocco’s ambassador to Austria took the opportunity to highlight the IAEA’s support for African countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rabat – Morocco was officially elected on Monday chair of the 64th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria. The country assumed the role for the first time through its Ambassador to Austria, Azzeddine Farhane.
The 64th Annual Regular Session of the IAEA General Conference (GC (64)) is taking place from September 21-25 at the Vienna International Centre (VIC). High-ranking officials and representatives from IAEA member states are set to discuss a range of issues.
In a special address, Farhane expressed his “deep gratitude” to the members of the African group for the “unanimous support of his candidacy” and thanked IAEA member states for voting in Morocco’s favor.
This year, he said, marks a “pivotal phase” for the IAEA as it faces “unprecedented challenges” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 64th general session is taking place in a “difficult global environment,” with the crisis forcing the international community to “review its plans and priorities” and “clarify its objectives.”
Despite the challenges of containment, the IAEA director-general has demonstrated profound leadership, Farhane continued. The IAEA took proactive measures and provided more than 125 countries with technical expertise and equipment — nuclear and radioactive — to detect the virus and prevent its spread.
The Moroccan ambassador welcomed the recent launch of the ZODIAC (Integrated Action Against Zoonoses) initiative. The action aims to mitigate the severity of future pandemics through the use of nuclear energy.
IAEA’s African support during the COVID-19 crisis
In Africa, IAEA’s support for its member states has been essential during the COVID-19 crisis.
The agency supports technical cooperation projects in 45 African countries. The projects focus on supporting national and regional initiatives in the fields of agri-food, dietetics, energy, the development of nuclear knowledge and safety, water and the environment, industrial applications, and radioactive technology.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, one-third of African IAEA member states benefited from assistance, Farhane emphasized. He described nuclear technological equipment used for the early detection of COVID-19, helping African countries to stem the spread of the virus.
The IAEA has also supported its African member states with nuclear medicine, he continued. Nuclear medicine has helped African countries provide care for women with cervical cancer, which claims 300,000 lives each year.
Farhane said 90% of cervical cancer victims live in low- to middle-income countries. Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in nearly half of sub-Saharan countries, he stressed.
For this reason, the Moroccan diplomat concluded, a high-level panel at the General Conference is set to discuss “the role of nuclear technologies in the fight against cervical cancer in the African continent: past experiences and future prospects.”.
Under the banner “Atoms for Peace and Development,” the 64th IAEA General Conference, is set to host 39 side events online. Some will also be accessible to the public.
The annual General Conference aims to highlight the work of the IAEA and of its member states, focusing on nuclear techniques, artificial intelligence in nuclear science, nuclear medicine, and the protection of the world’s water resources against overuse and contamination.
Participants and country representatives hope the event will also be an opportunity for the IAEA to devise a new initiative aimed at strengthening the efficiency of National Nuclear Material Accounting and Control Systems (SNCC).
In addition, the session entails a presentation ceremony to promote accession to multilateral treaties and give representatives of member states the opportunity to express their favor for ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession.