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Ambassador Abdul Samad Minty, Chair of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy,

 Mr Yukiya Amano, Director General of the IAEA,

 Commissioners of AFCONE,

 Representatives of State Parties,

 Representatives of Partner countries and organizations,

 Ladies and Gentlemen,

 On behalf of the Chairperson of the Commission, the Depositary of the Treaty of Pelindaba, I welcome you to the Second Conference of State Parties to the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, the Treaty of Pelindaba.

I would like, in particular, to welcome the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mr Yukiya Amano. Your presence here is a clear illustration of your commitment and that of the IAEA to work closely with the AU and its Member States towards the achievement of our common goals. I would like to assure you of our determination to do everything in our power to strengthen the relationship with the IAEA. We highly value your work and IAEA’s outstanding contribution to a safer world.

 Let me also acknowledge the presence of the State Parties to the Treaty of Pelindaba. It has been two years since the First Conference was held, on 4 November 2010, in this room, following the entry into force of the Treaty. I take the opportunity to welcome the new State Parties to the Treaty of Pelindaba, namely Chad, Comoros, Guinea Bissau and Namibia. This brings the total number of State Parties within the Zone to 36.

 I also wish to thank our partners, both bilateral and multilateral. Their support is critical to the achievement of the objectives of the Treaty of Pelindaba. I welcome all the signatories to the Protocols to the Treaty of Pelindaba. I note in particular, with satisfaction, that the Russian Federation has now ratified Protocols I and II to the Treaty, bringing the number of Parties to the those two instruments to four. I thank Germany and the United Kingdom for the financial assistance to the Commission for the convening of this Conference.

  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

This Conference is yet another testimony of the commitment of our region to the shared goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones are critical to strengthening global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament norms, as well as international efforts towards achieving the objectives of the Non Proliferation Treaty. Africa remains strongly committed to the three pillars of non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology – all of which are mutually reinforcing and equally fundamental.

 In line with the Treaty of Pelindaba, other relevant international instruments and Security Council resolutions, the AU will spare no efforts in contributing to the global non-proliferation efforts. At the same time, it is important to ensure that the right of all States to harness nuclear science and technology for peaceful purposes without discrimination is respected. Of course, such peaceful application must be under comprehensive IAEA safeguards, and guarantees full and unhindered access to nuclear facilities by the Agency. The AU strongly opposes any undeclared nuclear programme of any nature, which can undermine the confidence-building measures and reliable non-proliferation assurances the safeguards regime is meant to provide.

 As we meet here, we should welcome the positive developments in the implementation of the Conclusions and Recommendations for Follow-on Actions adopted by the 2010 NPT Review Conference. In this regard, the AU notes the efforts towards establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and the appointment of a Facilitator. I have continued to stress, including during the consultation I undertook earlier this year with the representative of the Facilitator, that the security and stability of Africa is inextricably linked to that of the Middle East.

 The AU supports the establishment of a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among the states of the region, which have the primary responsibility for achieving this goal. This point was strongly emphasized in the Conclusions and Recommendations for Follow-on Actions adopted by the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

 Disarmament is an equally important aspect of eliminating the threat posed by nuclear weapons. A nuclear-weapon free world is a world secure against the threat of a nuclear attack. In this respect, the AU applauds unilateral and multilateral arrangements aimed at the reduction and, ultimately, the elimination of nuclear weapons, and calls upon nuclear-weapon States to undertake further efforts towards achieving this goal.

 Enhancing support to the third pillar, the peaceful use of nuclear energy, will contribute not only to strengthening the non-proliferation regime, but also to socio-economic development. This is a matter of particular importance to our Zone, which continues to lack human and resource capacities in this area. The Zone still depends largely on educational institutions and training provided in other parts of the world, with only eight States having established national institutions with professional education programmes in nuclear science and technology, while only nine operate research reactors.

 The cancer disease highlights the need for accelerated progress in the peaceful use of nuclear science and technology. Statistics show that, in 2008, cancer killed over 200,000 men and 220,000 women in Africa. These figures are unfortunately expected to double by 2030.

 Countries within the Zone continue to work towards building and strengthening their cancer control and care progammes. Forty radiotherapy centres in 18 countries have been upgraded, thereby enhancing access and lowering treatment costs. There are also currently more than 50 operational nuclear medicine centres supported by more than 230 technologists, 136 nuclear medicine physicians and more than 50 medical physicists.

 Despite this progress however, there still remain wide disparities among countries due to human and resource limitations. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are still 19 countries without any cancer care facilities, and it is estimated that the region will face a shortage of 3,000 cancer health professionals over the next decade.

 This is in addition to the challenges and opportunities in other priority areas for peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology, including food and agriculture, water resources, marine environment, sustainable energy and industry.

 This brings me to the main focus of this Conference, which is to discuss and agree on aspects relating to the operationalization of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy – AFCONE.

When the Treaty entered into force, it established AFCONE for the purpose of ensuring State Parties’ compliance with their obligations and promoting regional and sub-regional cooperation in the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology. Since the election of the 12 members of AFCONE for a three-year term, at the First Conference of State Parties, no efforts were spared in maintaining the momentum.

By March 2011, the Commissioners of AFCONE were designated by the elected members. Please join me in welcoming them.

 Over the course of the past months, the AFCONE Commissioners, with the support of the AU Commission, met twice, in Ordinary Sessions, to discuss all matters relating to the full, timely and effective operationalization of AFCONE. You will hear more, later this afternoon, from the Chair of AFCONE and from the Department on the progress made in this regard.

 Tomorrow morning, the State Parties will also consider these issues on the basis of the documents presented. I urge you to extend your full support to AFCONE and its objectives.

 May I take this opportunity to thank the Government of South Africa for preparing to host the Secretariat of AFCONE.

 I wish you fruitful deliberations and look forward to the positive outcome of the Conference.

 

Thank you.

 

Posted by Lulit Kebede

Last updated by Abraham Kebede

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