Photo: Dean Calma, IAEA
In September, Sweden’s Resident Representative to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Mikaela Kumlin Grant was elected Chair of the Agency’s Board of Governors. This is the first time that a Swedish representative has held that post. During her one-year term she will lead the organisation’s work on peace, security and development.
Mikaela Kumlin Granit is also Ambassador in Vienna and is responsible for the work related to the local UN organisations. She says that a central part of the Swedish chairmanship will be to promote unity and constructive action by the Board.
“The most important task for Sweden will be to lead the Board’s work in a way that safeguards the independence, professionalism and technical nature of the work,” says Ms Kumlin Granit.
As Chair, Ms Kumlin Granit also has the main responsibility for the process of appointing a new Director General of the IAEA. Pursuing this work with as much political consensus as possible will be an important part of maintaining the organisation’s credibility and legitimacy.
“The presidency will also provide an opportunity to consolidate Sweden’s role in a number of matters. This includes the work on non-proliferation, as well as meeting the nine global sustainable development goals under the 2030 Agenda, where the IAEA contributes its unique competence,” Ms Kumlin Granit went on to say.
With its 171 Member States, the IAEA has long been a cornerstone in the international work for peaceful use of nuclear technology and in preventing nuclear materials being used for military purposes.
Since the agency was founded in 1957, it has on several occasions found itself the focus of global politics, for instance during the nuclear plant accidents in Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011, and in connection with the discovery of Iraq’s secret nuclear weapons programme in 1991.
The agency has often been strongly linked to the work on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the observance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Together with the then Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, partly for this work. Even today, non-proliferation is a very topical theme, and one of the IAEA’s most discussed activities at present is the monitoring of Iran’s nuclear technology programme. Over the year, North Korea could also become a hot topic, but this depends to a large extent on whether the country signs an agreement on its nuclear arms programme and gives access for inspections by the IAEA.
At the same time, the IAEA’s task is much broader than just non-proliferation. Under the motto “Atoms for Peace and Development”, the IAEA works on an abundance of questions concerning the peaceful use of nuclear energy that contributes to countries’ development.
This could include everything from cancer treatments to vermin control and counteracting ocean acidification. In this way, the IAEA contributes to the global sustainable development goals in the 2030 Agenda.
Another responsibility of the IAEA is developing guidelines for nuclear and radiation safety, and to help Member States to follow them. The IAEA also promotes nuclear security to prevent nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorist organisations, for instance.