Opening Speech by H E Ambassador Jennifer Macmillan President of the 53rd Session of the IAEA General Conference

Your Excellencies, Director General, Honourable Heads and Members of Delegations, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a great honour for me, and for New Zealand, to have been elected President for this 53rd regular session of the I A E A General Conference.

I would like to begin by thanking the South East Asia Pacific Group for nominating me, and all Member States for electing me, to this challenging position. I am committed to working with you all, with the support of the Secretariat, to complete the full agenda before us. As so many of you have told me over the past few weeks, I know I can rely on your support, and count on you all to approach our joint task constructively and in the spirit of Vienna. And you can count on me to facilitate this work.

The General Conference is a unique event on the I A E A's annual calendar.  It brings together all Member States to discuss every aspect of the Agency's work - safety and security, science and technology, and safeguards and verification. Although we enjoy a healthy debate on the prioritisation of the Agency's activities we are unified in our commitment to its objectives: to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world, and to ensure, so far as it is able, that assistance provided by it, or at its request, or under its supervision or control, is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose.

It is our commitment to these objectives that we need to keep in view during our forthcoming discussions both in this plenary hall and in the Committee of the Whole. The resolutions on which we will focus are our way of ensuring the continuation of the important technical work of the Agency in all its fields of activity, and in all regions of the world. And continue it must.

The challenges before the Agency are diverse - they are old and new; financial and technical; hard and even harder. As recognised in the Agency's statute, and by its ever-growing membership, nuclear technology offers tremendous benefits in the fields of human health, water quality, crop enhancement, pest control and energy for development. Developing and sharing these benefits will be critical for addressing poverty, hunger and disease for millions of people as the international community works to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

While pursuing its important work in these areas, the Agency must also fulfil its obligations in addressing the complex and broad-ranging safety and security challenges posed by nuclear technology. Providing the Agency with the means to fulfil its safety, security and verification mandates is essential to ensure that the awesome power of atomic energy is used solely for peaceful purposes throughout the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

These issues are intimidating but the I A E A does not deal with them alone. Rather, it is a vital component of the nuclear non-proliferation architecture. After a lacklustre period, it appears that the disarmament and non-proliferation landscape may be on the cusp of positive change with growing support for a world free of nuclear weapons, and the recognition that nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation are mutually reinforcing principles.

The IAEA can contribute to, and benefit from, this encouraging change - I look forward to sending a united and positive message from this session of the General Conference.

Our message will also highlight the value of the Agency's work not only to policy makers but more broadly to civil society, scientists and the business community. Led by the IAEA Scientific Forum on Energy for Development, the many different side events that will take place this week are testament to the broad interest that exists in the work of the Agency and its application to everyday life.

Ladies and Gentlemen, before I close, I would like to recognise the service of Dr Mohammed ElBaradei in his twelve-year stewardship of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Since he took over the role of Director General in 1997, the Agency has seen a number of challenges to the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Professional, impartial and passionate, Dr ElBaradei has worked consistently and pro-actively with Member States and his own staff to meet these challenges and ensure that the Agency is prepared for those that arise in the future. The Director General has worked to strengthen all pillars of the Agency's work, a demanding task recognised by the award of the Nobel Prize in 2005.

The bar has been set high for Ambassador Yukiya Amano, the Director General-elect. We can all look forward to working with him and to supporting him in this demanding role.

Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is time to begin our work. I pledge my full commitment to achieving the objectives of this General Conference, and will spare no effort in encouraging dialogue among delegations and regional groups so that the Vienna Spirit might prevail.

Thank you.

Source: IAEA