The Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development, Leila Benali, stated Monday in Vienna that Morocco is steadfastly committed to supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) central role in the technical assistance provided to member states as well as triangular cooperation with Africa.
In a remote address on the occasion of the 66th session of the General Conference of the IAEA, Ms. Benali emphasized that “Africa, and action in the service of the African continent, remains a strategic priority for Morocco, in accordance with the High Guidelines of HM King Mohammed VI, in favor of the development of South-South and triangular cooperation that is united and active.”
She recalled that a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Moroccan Ministry of Health and Social Protection and the IAEA in order to further strengthen cooperation in the fight against cancer and zoonoses, such as Covid-19, Zika, or Ebola in Africa, as part of Morocco’s ongoing commitment to support capacity building activities in Africa.
This memorandum, which was signed during the Director General of the IAEA’s visit to Morocco in June, will enable Morocco to strengthen its contributions to the establishment of regional cancer treatment centers as part of the IAEA’s “Rayons of Hope” initiative. This is especially important in Africa, where more than 70% of the population lacks access to radiotherapy, a crucial treatment for cancer.
She continued, “Morocco welcomes the designation in January 2021 of the National Center for Energy, Sciences and Nuclear Techniques (CNESTEN) as the first IAEA Collaborating Center on the African continent for the use of nuclear techniques in the fields of water resources management, environmental protection, and industrial applications, for the period extending from 2021 to 2025.” This designation is part of a dynamic of bilateral and triangular partnership with the IAEA.
Ms. Benali also hailed the IAEA’s designation of the Moroccan Agency for Nuclear and Radiological Safety and Security (AMSSNuR) as the First African Collaborative Center for Capacity Building in Nuclear Security, effective July 16, 2021.
According to her, “through this dual recognition, these two institutions will continue their cooperation with the IAEA, in order to further consolidate technical cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy between Morocco and the Agency, and strengthen triangular cooperation in the material for the benefit of developing countries, particularly African countries.”
The Minister reaffirmed the Kingdom’s support for the Agency’s efforts to develop nuclear energy and technologies for peaceful uses, and he added that the IAEA’s activities are in line with this vision due to the political commitment of its member states and the technical support provided by the Agency, particularly through its Technical Cooperation Program (TCP).
With this in mind, Morocco, which presided over the 64th session of the IAEA General Conference two years ago in the person of Mr. Azzeddine Farhane, Permanent Representative Ambassador, worked to include the development of radiotherapy and the use of nuclear applications in the fight against cancer on the agenda of this session by organizing the first-ever High Level panel with the IAEA Director General on the topic of “The role of nucleic acids in the fight against cancer.”
According to Ms. Benali’s summary records, the Conference’s 64th session welcomed the meeting’s conclusions, which emphasized the need to increase public awareness of the problem of cervical cancer in Africa, exchange best practices, and establish mechanisms to strengthen collaboration, momentum, and complementarity among all participants in the fight against cancer.
She said that because of this, Morocco actively supports the “Rays of Hope” initiative, which was introduced in Addis Abeb by the Director General of the IAEA to ensure that everyone has access to cancer care and to address the lack of radiotherapy in developing nations, particularly in Africa, on the occasion of World Cancer Day.
Ms. Benali also praised the significant advancements made since the ZODIAC initiative, or “Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action Project,” was put into effect. This initiative was adopted by consensus in a resolution at the 64th session of the Conference General of the IAEA, which was presided over by Morocco.
“My country, which has supported the Rays of Hope initiative and the ZODIAC project, calls on the Member States to continue supporting the Agency’s structuring actions, such as the ReNuAL project, +Renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories+, which aims to equip the IAEA with the necessary capabilities to meet national needs and thereby contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” she said.
Morocco, which has financially supported the Zodiac project’s implementation, would like to reiterate its appreciation of this innovative initiative on this occasion. The initiative aims to create a comprehensive, multisectoral, and multidisciplinary global framework to combat diseases spread by zoonotic agents on a global level, the Minister said.
The official said, “The Seibersdorf Nuclear Sciences and Applications Laboratories Renovation Project (Renual and Renual+) is crucial for boosting nuclear sciences and applications training in developing countries.
Additionally, Ms. Benali pointed out that Morocco has developed national expertise as a result of the IAEA’s support in the areas of health, nuclear medicine and medical physics, nutrition, water, agriculture, industry, environment, education and training, safety and security, as well as the promotion of the peaceful use of applications and technologies in a safe, secure, and sustainable manner.
She said, “At the academic level, the CNESTEN organized this year’s 11th session of the post-graduate training on radiation safety and source control of ionizing radiation (PGEC) for professionals from roughly twenty French-speaking African nations, under the auspices of the IAEA and AFRA.
According to the manager, the CNESTEN coordinates the deployment of expert missions or laboratory analyses as well as the reception of 100 professional and scientific visits annually for the benefit of technicians, executives, and managers. It also works closely with the IAEA and AFRA and in coordination with the relevant African institutions from about thirty English- and French-speaking countries.
She noted that this year, under the auspices of the IAEA and AFRA, CNESTEN organized the 12th session of post-graduate training on the radiological safety and control of ionizing radiation sources (PGEC) for the benefit of professionals from a dozen African countries in order to strengthen regional capacities in radiological safety.
The Agency’s safety standards as well as the appropriate national legal frameworks in place have been reinforced by the fact that, to date, close to 300 professionals have benefited from this crucial training and hold positions of responsibility, particularly in the regulatory bodies of their respective countries, according to Ms. Benali.
The Forum of Nuclear Regulators in Africa (FNRBA), which has been AMSSNuR’s chair since 2019, has worked to strengthen the position of African nuclear regulators in the area of nuclear safety and security. She noted that the AMSSNuR has trained 2,000 persons in nuclear safety, 38% of whom are representatives of African nations and 10% of whom are from other regions.
According to Ms. Benali, the AMSSNuR will also host the meeting of the IAEA steering committee office responsible for developing capabilities and knowledge management in nuclear safety and security in October 2022.
This meeting’s goal is to prepare the steering committee meeting, which will take place in Vienna in December 2022 and be devoted to finalizing the draft strategic approach for the years 2023 through 2030 to develop the capacity building components, such as human resources, training, education, knowledge management, and partnership networks, she said.
The Secretary General of the Ministry of Health, Abdelkrim Meziane Belfqih, the Acting Director of AMSSNuR, Mounji Zniber, the Acting Director General from CNESTEN, Hamid Marah, and the Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Morocco to International Organizations based in Vienna, Azzeddine Farhane are all part of the large delegation representing Morocco at this 66th session of the IAEA General Conference.