Amendments to Articles VI & XIV.A of Statute of the IAEA: briefing by Department of Energy

Energy

06 September 2010
Chairperson: Ms E Thabethe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Energy briefed the Committee on the amendments to Article VI and Article XIV.A of the statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency.  The briefing covered the background to the IAEA statute, the mandate of the Department and the powers of the Minister in terms of the Nuclear Energy Act, the status of South Africa as a member state of the IAEA, the amendments to the statute and the necessity for the amendments to be ratified.

The amendments to the statute were originally proposed in 1999.  Ratification by two-thirds of the member states was required before the amended statute was adopted.  The amendment to Article VI expanded the composition of the IAEA Board of Governors from the 35 to 43 members.  The amendment to Article XIV.A changed the IAEA programme and budget process from an annual process to a biennial process and required the alignment of the IAEA budgeting process with the practices applied by all United Nations organisations. The Department recommended that South Africa ratified the amendments to the statute of the IAEA.

The Members of the Committee asked questions about the standing of South Africa at the IAEA; the meaning of “biennial”; the election and term of office of members of the Board of Governors of the IAEA; the application of solutions for the eradication of fruit fly and tsetse fly; the consequence of the failure of member states to ratify the amendments; the position of the USA as the Depository Government of the IAEA and the utilisation of the assistance of $ US 1 million p.a. received by South Africa.

The Committee approved the ratification of the amendments to the statute of the IAEA.

Meeting report

Mr Mthethwa Mkhize, Acting Unit Manager, Parliamentary Services, introduced the new Committee Secretary, Mr Pilate Gwebu.  He explained the Rules of Parliament applicable to the election of an Acting Chairperson and Ms Linda Moss (ANC) was duly elected by the Committee.

Briefing by the Department of Energy (DOE)
Ms Ditebogo Kgomo, Chief Director: Nuclear, Department of Energy presented the briefing to the Committee (see attached document).  The presentation document included an introduction, the mandate of the Department, the status of South Africa with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the amendments to the statute, the need for ratification of the amendments, a conclusion and recommendations.

The statute of the IAEA was approved on 23 October 1956 and came into force on 29 July 1957. The statute established the IAEA, which was a United Nations body tasked to assist countries worldwide to promote and disseminate information for the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes and to develop a system of controls to prevent the diversion of atomic materials for military use.

The mission of the IAEA was guided by the interests and needs of the 151 member states. The three main areas of work were Nuclear Safety and Security, Science and Technology and Safeguards and Verification.

The policy making bodies were the IAEA Board of Governors and the Annual General Conference, which would convene on 24 September 2010. The policy making bodies determined the work programmes and budget of the IAEA.

The Department was mandated to deal with the administration of all matters related to nuclear energy as required by legislation and international agreements, as stipulated in the Nuclear Energy Act No 46 of 1999. The Minister of Energy was responsible for South Africa’s relations with the IAEA in terms of Section 33 of the Act, which mandated the Minister to liaise with the IAEA on an ongoing basis in order to fulfil international obligations.  Section 33 (5) required that IAEA membership fees were paid to the IAEA by the Minister of Energy on behalf of the Republic of South Africa. The Minister had an overall responsibility for the deposition and implementation of international treaty obligations with regard to the activities of the IAEA.

South Africa was one of the member states of the IAEA and formed part of an eight-Nation Negotiation Group, which concluded the draft statute in 1957. As a member state, South Africa interacted with the IAEA on an ongoing basis by participating in policy making meetings and in all areas of work of the IAEA. South Africa was a signatory to various treaties, conventions and protocols related to Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Technology. South Africa was the only African country to hold a seat on the IAEA Board of Governors, because of its advanced nuclear infrastructure. South Africa received assistance to the value of more than $ US 1 Million per annum as a beneficiary under the IAEA Technical Cooperation (TC) programme.  The TC programme contributed towards the enhancement of health, agriculture and sustainable development in South Africa. Thanks to the assistance received, the application of nuclear technology had brought feasible solutions to many of the problems confronting the country and the African continent (for example tsetse flies and fruit flies).  There were currently 27 South Africans employed in different staff categories of the IAEA.

The statute had been amended in 1963, 1973 and 1989. Proposals were made in 1999 to further amend Article VI and Article XIV.A of the statute. The amendment to Article VI expanded the composition of the IAEA Board of Governors from the 35 to 43 members. The Article set out a list of the criteria that had to be taken into account when the Board designated members. The Article provided for each member state to be included in the regional or aerial group determined by the Agency and resulted in the implementation of a carefully crafted, long sought solution to issues associated with representation of members on the Board of Governors as well as contributing to enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of the IAEA.

The amendment to Article XIV.A changed the IAEA programme and budget process from an annual process to a biennial process. The Article required the alignment of the IAEA budgeting process with the practices applied by all United Nations (UN) organisations. The Article also called for a single programme and budget document and one appropriate resolution covering the entire biennium. The Article allowed for improved programme planning and increased flexibility in programme implementation, thereby enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of programme delivery.

South Africa had to demonstrate commitment to and support of bilateral and multilateral initiatives. The country had to be seen to be a strong supporter of proportional representation of member states on the Board of Governors. South Africa supported measures that were designed to simplify and enhance programme planning, effectiveness and efficiency.  The ratification of the amendments to the IAEA statute would not have an added burden on South Africa as most of the obligations of the Stature were already implemented.  There were no additional financial obligations that would result from the ratification of the amendments. The expansion of the Board of Governors was a step in the right direction for the African region and consolidated the representation of the continent on the Board of Governors and ensured a greater degree of representation.

As at 17 August 2010, 51 member states ratified Article VI.  A further 50 ratifications were required.  Only five African member states had ratified the amendments to Article VI (Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Ethiopia).  As at 3 February 2010, 47 member states had ratified the amendment to Article XIV.A.  A further 54 ratifications were required. Only three African member states had ratified Article XIV.A (Algeria, Tunisia and Kenya).

The Department recommended that the Portfolio Committee and the Select Committee supported and recommended the ratification of the two amendments of the IAEA Statute by South Africa to the National Assembly and to the National Council of Provinces. Once the recommendation was approved by Parliament, the instruments of ratification would be deposited with the Government of the United States of America, which acted as the Depository Government. The amendments to the IAEA statute would come into force when ratified by two-thirds of the member states (i.e. 101 of the 151 member states) in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.

Discussion
Mr S Motau (DA) asked if South Africa was a member in good standing with the IAEA. He asked if biennial meant twice per annum or once every two years. He wanted to know how the members of the Board of Governors assumed their positions in the Agency.

Ms Kgomo answered that South Africa was indeed considered to be in good standing with the Agency. She explained that biennial meant every two years and not twice per annum (biannual). The members of the Board of Governors were elected for a period of two years and were elected at the annual meeting of the IAEA. The number of seats that a country assumed within the Agency was largely dependent on the extent of its nuclear programme. She undertook to arrange a visit to the IAEA laboratories for the Members, which would provide an insight into the functions and activities of the organisation.

Ms N Mathibela (ANC) asked if the solutions found for the problems associated with tsetse fly and fruit fly were available for use by private households. She noted that only 5 African member states had ratified the amendments and asked what would happen if the remaining member states failed to ratify the amendments.

Ms Kgomo explained that the solution for eradicating fruit fly was mainly intended for large scale purposes on fruit farms in the Western Cape.  The solution for the eradication of tsetse fly was applied in Mpumalanga and in Mozambique in an attempt to curb malaria and trypisomiasis (sleeping sickness).

Mr S Radebe (ANC) asked why the USA was the Depository Government and if the position was permanent or rotated amongst other member states.  He asked for clarity on the meaning of “permanent” with regard to the Board of Governors. He asked for further details of how the assistance of $US 1 million p.a. that was received by South Africa was allocated and utilised.

Ms Kgomo replied that the USA had been the Depository Government since the inception of the Agency.  It was very unlikely that the arrangement would change.  The Depository Government was not rotated.  Should member states fail to ratify the amendments, decisions would be made by the member states in good standing with the IAEA.

Mr Motau asked if it was advisable and beneficial for South Africa to lobby and encourage other countries to ratify the amendments.

Ms Kgomo replied that it would beneficial for South Africa to lobby other countries, especially the SADC countries so that the region could have a unified voice in matters pertaining to nuclear energy.

Mr Motau proposed that the Committee ratified the amendments as recommended by the Department of Energy. The Committee agreed to ratify the amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.

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