Conference for the Signing of the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty
(the Pelindaba Treaty)

Hans Blix
Director General
International Atomic Energy Agency

Cairo, 11 April 1996

It is deeply gratifying to witness today the signing of the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (the Pelindaba Treaty). The conclusion of this Treaty bears testimony to the untiring efforts of the countries of this continent in nuclear arms control and disarmament. It is also the fruit of a fundamental change in the international political environment - the movement towards detente.

The vision of the African leaders and their commitment to spare Africa the nuclear arms race was expressed as early as 1964 at the first Organization of African Unity summit meeting in Cairo, in the Declaration on the Denuclearization of Africa. It took three decades, however, to transform that vision and commitment into a reality. The transformation had to await both the end of the cold war, which had cast its shadow on the African continent, and the end of apartheid, which ushered in a new era in South Africa. Indeed, it was South Africa's decision in 1990 to rid itself of nuclear weapons, to join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to accept IAEA safeguards on all its nuclear activities, that removed the last barrier to African efforts to keep this continent free from nuclear weapons.

The commitment of African States to nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament is deep and long-standing. Fifty-one States members of the OAU are already party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and have thereby undertaken to use nuclear energy exclusively for peaceful purposes and to accept IAEA verification on all their nuclear activities. The Pelindaba Treaty, however, goes further than the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Unlike the NPT, it prohibits the stationing and testing of any nuclear explosive device in the territories of its parties; it also commits its parties to apply the highest standards of security and physical protection of nuclear material, facilities and equipment to prevent theft and unauthorized use; it prohibits armed attack against nuclear installations in the zone; and it prohibits the dumping of any radioactive waste. These are important undertakings supplementary to those already assumed by the parties under the NPT. They will help to advance the cause of horizontal and vertical non-proliferation and to prevent illegal trafficking in or other unauthorized uses of nuclear material. They will help to shield nuclear facilities from possible armed attacks and consequent radiological releases during conflicts; and they will require management of radioactive waste to be in accordance with accepted international safety standards.

Under the Pelindaba Treaty the IAEA is entrusted with the obligation of verifying, through its safeguards system and in accordance with the complaint procedure provided for in the Treaty, compliance by the parties with their commitment to use nuclear energy exclusively for peaceful purposes. We are grateful for the trust shown in the verification system of the IAEA by the Treaty's reliance on it. I am confident that the Agency's Policy-Making-Organs will authorize the Secretariat to undertake these responsibilities in the service of peace and prosperity. The IAEA currently applies safeguards to twenty-six nuclear facilities in five African States party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, namely Egypt, Ghana, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, South Africa and Zaire, and in one State, Algeria, pursuant to facility-specific agreements. I should add that a safeguards agreement with Algeria linked to Algeria's adherence to the NPT has recently been signed and may be expected soon to come into force.

As you may be aware, the lessons learned in Iraq are leading the IAEA to strengthen its safeguards system with a view to improving its capability to verify the peaceful nature of declared nuclear activities and - even more importantly - to detect possible undeclared activities. This will be achieved through increased access to information, including the use of new verification techniques such as environmental sampling, and increased physical access to sites and locations. The IAEA Board of Governors has already endorsed a first set of measures to strengthen the safeguards system and is currently considering additional measures. I am confident that, with a strengthened safeguards system, the IAEA will be able to provide a high degree of assurance regarding both the non-diversion of declared nuclear activities to non-peaceful purposes and the absence of clandestine nuclear activities.

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I note that the Pelindaba Treaty is not limited to assuring the exclusively peaceful use of nuclear energy. It demonstrates confidence in the potential use of nuclear energy for sustainable economic and social development. The parties commit themselves "to promote individually and collectively the use of nuclear science and technology for economic and social development". To this end, they will make use of the programme of technical assistance available through the IAEA and, in particular, strengthen co-operation under the African Regional Co-operation Agreement for Research, Training and Development related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA).

In this connection, let me point out that although the use of nuclear energy for power generation is perhaps the most widely known and discussed application of nuclear energy, it is by no means the only application. For many developing countries the use of radioisotopes in agriculture, medicine, hydrology and industry is important. Nuclear power for the desalination of sea-water could become important in the future to provide clean fresh drinking water to several big African cities. As the UN system organization entrusted with fostering international co-operation for the safe and peaceful use of nuclear energy for sustainable development, the IAEA pursues a major programme of technical assistance through which nuclear technology for peaceful applications is transferred to developing countries.

Let me report to you that the Agency's technical assistance programme to Africa is currently around US 20 million dollars per annum. The programme contributes, for example, to increasing agricultural productivity in many African Member States; to developing genetically improved varieties of seeds, grains and légumes; to ensuring optimum use of soil, water and chemicals, and to improving farm animal reproduction and nutrition. In the field of human health the Agency programme in Africa is focusing on the application of nuclear techniques, primarily for medical diagnosis and the treatment of cancer. The programme also assists African Member States in the use of isotope techniques to assess ground water resources in arid and semi-arid zones. The Agency has also been using a radioisotope technique - the so-called sterile insect technique - to control and possibly eradicate pests such as the tsetse fly and the Mediterranean fruit fly which cause severe economic losses in many African countries.

During the past decade, regional activities in the field of nuclear science and technology have assumed greater importance in Africa. Activities being carried out through the regional co-operative agreement AFRA cover areas such as nuclear medicine, agriculture, maintenance of scientific and medical instruments, radiation protection and waste management. This inter-governmental arrangement has now a membership of 21 countries. AFRA has proved to be an important mechanism to promote regional co-operation and to co-ordinate intellectual and physical resources.

In the quest for nuclear disarmament nuclear-weapon-free zones are important vehicles. I note the recognition in the preamble to the Pelindaba Treaty that "the establishment of other nuclear-weapon-free zones, especially in the Middle East, would enhance the security of States Party to the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone". You may be aware that the IAEA General Conference has supported the concept of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East with full verification and requested me to consult States of the region to facilitate the early application of comprehensive Agency safeguards to all nuclear activities in the region. For several years I have been consulting States of the Middle East on questions of verification which will one day be before them and in which they should be enabled to draw on the advice and experience of the IAEA.

Let me end by noting that, in addition to the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, other nuclear arms control measures need to be taken urgently to move the world progressively towards nuclear disarmament. High on the list are the conclusion of a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty; a universal convention banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and most importantly, as provided for in the consensus decision of the NPT Review and Extension Conference, "a determined pursuit by the Nuclear Weapon States of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons".