The IAEA works with its Member States and multiple partners to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world. Through its Department of Technical Cooperation, the IAEA seeks “to increasingly promote tangible socio-economic impact by contributing directly in a cost-effective manner to the achievement of the major sustainable development priorities of each country.”
The principal functions of its Technical Cooperation (TC) Programme are to: (i) encourage and assist research in the development and practical application of nuclear science and technology for development; (ii) assist Member States to procure materials, services, equipment, and facilities to meet the needs of research with due consideration for the needs of developing countries; and (iii) encourage the exchange of training of scientists and experts within and across all Member States, which includes the exchange of scientific information.
With more than 190 staff members, the TC Department works in full partnership with technical officers from the technical departments within the IAEA and project counterparts in 135 of the IAEA’s 154 Member States. Through training courses, expert missions, fellowships, scientific visits, and equipment disbursement, the TC programme provides the necessary skills and equipment to establish sustainable technology in the counterpart country or region. In addition, the TC Department collaborates with United Nations and other organizations to plan and execute projects.
Through its TC programme, the IAEA is systematically building national and regional capability for its Member States, particularly the developing countries, to establish infrastructure and services that would enable them to gain greater access to global trade through improved production processes and the ability to meet global established standards. This is carried out in two forms: firstly, assisting Member States to acquire the equipment and material required for setting up infrastructure, such as analytical laboratories and irradiation facilities; and, secondly, building human resource capacity – fellowships, training, scientific visits, etc.
The overall strategy lies in transferring science and technology that relates to the specific requirements of each region to ensure ownership and concerted efforts towards self-reliance and long-term sustainability. Ultimately, the IAEA seeks to establish the capacity of its Member States to harness nuclear science and technology for improved production in all sectors, including those activities that relate to trade.
There is increased recognition that science and technology can significantly contribute in enabling countries to provide goods and services which, when traded, can contribute to the socio-economic well-being of a country. However, many developing countries have neither the infrastructure and the human resources, nor the investment capability to acquire modern science and technology know-how. In this context, the Agency is working to assist its Member States, particularly developing Member States, to procure the expertise and infrastructure that would enable them to exploit and better utilize science and technology to not only meet national needs but ultimately to increase their production capability for goods and services that can meet global standards. IAEA’s support is available to all its Member States, with particular consideration for LDC Member States.
An example of a successful partnership is the established joint division of the IAEA and FAO, based at the IAEA’s Secretariat in Vienna. The Joint FAO/IAEA Division is currently responsible for providing scientific and technical support for over 200 national and regional technical cooperation projects, as well as for interregional and regional training courses channelled to recipient countries for the purpose of providing equipment, expert advice and training. Projects are financed by IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Fund, FAO’s Technical Cooperation Programme, and also through trust funds provided by donor countries and international funding agencies. Other partnerships have been established at international, regional and national levels.
TCB activities in this guide
- Assistance to improve production methods
- Assistance to meet global standards and international regulations
- Assistance related to non-conformity with safety and quality standards
Project on improving food security and harmonizing control standards for foods of animal origin in Latin America
In Central America, the regional project RLA5055: “Establishing a South American Regional Network of National and Reference Laboratories for Pharmacologically Active Substances and Contaminants in Food of Animal Origin through implementation of Approved Nuclear & Conventional Analytical Techniques (ARCAL CIV)” aimed to enhance consumer food safety in the Latin America region and to improve capacities for regional and international trade. Given the resource limitations and lack of access to appropriate technologies, as well as the need for uniform standards in food control in Latin America, the establishment of a network of national laboratories to consolidate capacity and ensure sustainability was proposed. More advanced laboratories would act as regional reference laboratories, specializing in various aspects of residue analysis, and would inform and support the less developed ones, thus maximizing the use of limited resources and ensuring sustainability. The IAEA’s technical cooperation programme facilitated the harmonization of protocols and procedures for the analysis of pharmacologically active substances and contaminants in food of animal origin. Knowledge and experience were shared through numerous expert missions, scientific visits and workshops. Making full use of expertise available within the network, the more advanced laboratories in the region have helped the less developed ones to implement quality assurance programmes to demonstrate their competencies through ISO 17025 accreditation. Technologies developed at EU reference laboratories for the detection of antibiotics in animal products has been transferred, modified and implemented in the region with IAEA support. As a result of the project, laboratories in the region have successfully participated in proficiency tests and extended the scope of their ISO 17025 accreditation for food control. In addition, the project has enhanced the competitiveness of the collaborating countries in the international market by demonstrating their improved capability through EU Food and Veterinary Office inspection missions. Results from the project have been presented at an international workshop on validation and regulatory analysis, focusing on veterinary drug and pesticide residues and contaminants in foods.
Project on supporting product quality in Latin America
In Latin America and the Caribbean, the regional project RLA2014: “Improving Analytical Quality Through Quality Assurance Training, Proficiency Testing and Certification of Matrix Reference Materials Using Nuclear Analytical and Related Techniques in the Latin American Nuclear Analytical Technique Network (ARCAL XCVII)” aimed to improve analytical quality control systems and the preparation and certification of matrix reference materials that support trade, science, environment and industry. The project provided training in quality control, as well as in proficiency testing using nuclear analytical and related techniques. Training on the preparation of reference materials was also carried out. The project has facilitated the deployment of common reference materials, allowing comparisons of results between laboratories. The project also supported the sharing of efforts and the optimization of capacities and knowledge of more experienced laboratories. As a result, analytical performance in 80 participating laboratories in 17 Member States increased. In El Salvador and Paraguay, national networks of laboratories were established for the exchange of information and experience in the harmonization of analytical measurements, standards were established and certified reference materials prepared. Also in El Salvador, a number of laboratories achieved qualification for technical competence on the basis of the ISO 43 standard. In Uruguay, new laboratories were commissioned to support new areas of analysis, including standards and materials for the determination of 90Sr in food and 3H in water. Also in Uruguay, and in Peru, new laboratory capabilities to prepare reference materials have reduced import costs. Overall, the capacity and quality of the institutions involved in the project have improved greatly. Most are now able to prepare reference materials and to implement proficiency tests in other national laboratories (Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay).
Project on improving food security and expanding the sterile insect techniques (SIT) in South Africa
The national project SAF5007: “Expanding the Use of the Sterile Insect Technique against Fruit Pests in the Western and Northern Cape” started as a pilot project with the aim to integrate the expansion of the sterile insect technique (SIT) in South Africa in a coordinated manner, to include not only other fruit production areas, but gradually also other insect pests besides the Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly) such as the Codling Moth (CM), the False Codling Moth (FCM), and the Natal Fruit Fly (NFF). Substantial impact has been achieved resulting in the citrus export industry being saved from the devastating false codling moth and thousands of job losses were avoided in the Western Cape Province. False codling moth SIT is now on a very firm footing in South Africa and the technology is now available for other FAO and IAEA Member States. The sustainability of fruit production and exports has also improved, and fruit losses and insecticide usage in the Western Cape Province have been reduced. Work is on-going to assess the potential for integrating SIT against sugarcane borers on sugarcane, as well as to consolidate codling moth management in the apple and pear export industries. The technical support provided has been highly valued by the Government and the private sector, and it continues to support the expansion of SIT to other areas. The achievements have been so convincing economically and environmentally to the private sector that three companies were established under public–private partnerships with the fruit industry. This assures sustainability of activities in the future.