Topnews, Statements

14. September 2020


Agenda Item 3: Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC)

Madame Chair

South Africa associates itself with the statement delivered by Her Excellency Ambassador Natividad on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and His Excellency Ambassador Mezghani on behalf of the African Group, and wish to add the following comments in our national capacity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating consequences with huge loss of life all over the world and South Africa joins other delegations in expressing its deep and sincere condolences to all who have lost loved ones in this difficult time.

The huge socio-economic impact of the pandemic will bring further longterm hardships, especially in developing countries as the disease has wiped out many years of progress in just a few months.

Therefore, we welcome the proposal by the Director General to enhance the Agency’s ability to support Member States in fighting zoonotic diseases and to prepare adequately to fight future pandemics. We also thank the Director General and the Secretariat for the Information Document, which is before the Board of Governors.

South Africa agrees that the IAEA is well placed to provide unique support to Member States at national and regional levels to prepare laboratories to detect, trace, diagnose and combat zoonotic diseases. South Africa has long held the view that if national capacities are strengthened through collaboration with the IAEA and other Member States we can eradicate many such threats to our health and livelihoods.

This was the reasoning behind our country’s initiative that is now known as VETLABS. The initial success of the small initiative targeted to fight rinderpest in Africa, eventually lead to the complete eradication of that disease in Africa. Now over 240 laboratories across Africa and Asia form part of the network and prior to the current pandemic, and inline with the resolutions of the General Conference, that network has started to expand into Eastern Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean.

My delegation is therefore pleased to note that VETLABS was the key delivery mechanism employed by the Agency to provide timeous assistance to Member States at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, we have noted the crucial role VETLABS has fulfilled in fighting zoonotic diseases by enabling cross-boundary collaborations in responses to transboundary animal and zoonotic diseases, thus providing the unique and stable platform for the Director General’s ZODIAC proposal. 

We further support the idea proposed in ZODIAC to strengthen and expand collaboration and partnership with other international organisations. However, this which should be done cautiously and without duplicating or replicating the existing work of other organisations such as the World Health Organisation. 

Madame Chair,

Whilst it is good to be proactive, it should not be forgotten that the IAEA is a Member State-driven organisation and that Member States should be at the forefront of the Agency’s work. Initiatives such as these must be developed in lock-step with Member States and based on the needs of Member States. Close and frequent consultation with Member States is therefore essential.

In addition, a project of this size must be based on a clear mandate from Member States, which can only be derived from the General Conference. This is why South Africa initiated a draft resolution with the Group of 77 and China currently being finalised for adoption by the 64th Regular Session of the General Conference that will take place next week.

A step-by-step approach is essential, and the further development of the proposal must be based on the needs of Member States and with the assurance that existing processes and programmes are not being duplicated. In addition, the proposed budget and funding requires further development to provide more detail.

We therefore join others in calling on the Director General and the Secretariat to intensify their consultation with Member States and to keep us informed of developments. 

With these remarks, the South Africa takes note of GOV/INF/2020/13.

I thank you.

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