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Topnews, Statements

17. November 2020

STATEMENT DELIVERED BY DR. JOHNNY THABO PITSWANE, MINISTER PLENIPOTENTIARY, PERMANENT MISSION OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA, AT THE IAEA BOARD OF GOVERNORS TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE AND COOPERATION COMMITTEE (TACC), 17 NOVEMBER 2020, VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Agenda Item 3: Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) - SHORT VERSION

Madam Chair

South Africa associates itself with the statements delivered by the Group of 77 and China and the African Group and I wish to add the following comments in our national capacity. The full statement will be made available on our website.

From the outset, let me reiterate South Africa’s full support for the ZODIAC project, which when implemented will place the IAEA and its Member States in a position to adequately prepare for, and combat, future zoonotic diseases. 

As has been mentioned many times, this will be the largest ever project undertaken by the IAEA and therefore we, Member States and the Secretariat alike, must proceed with care to ensure that the project is sustainable and affordable.  The project should also not negatively affect the excellent work the IAEA does through its Technical Cooperation Programme.

We thank the Secretariat for the technical briefings held; the bilateral discussions; the non-paper; as well as for the Information Document and the Project Description for the off-cycle inter-regional Technical Cooperation Project, which is before the TACC today.

With all the above in mind, Madam Chair, my delegation would like to offer the following comments, which we hope will be of use as guidance to the Secretariat for the implementation of the General Conference Resolution:

  • The implementation of the project should be guided at all phases by the General Conference Resolution. The Resolution calls for detailed information to be provided to Member States that sets out the scope, activities, tools and delivery mechanisms to be used as ZODIAC is developed and implemented;
  • In this regard, we urge the continuation of regular engagement with Member States as a whole and with the Board of Governors as the project is rolled out. In this regard, the Secretariat should perhaps consider the establishment of an Advisory Group that would allow for Member States and the Secretariat to engage at expert level to ensure the effective and transparent development and implementation of ZODIAC. We believe this could supplement engagement with Member States as called for in the Resolution;
  • Similarly, the expanded coordination with relevant international organisations as foreseen by ZODIAC, should proceed cautiously so as to avoid duplication of mandates.  In this regard perhaps a formalised coordination mechanism between the relevant organisations would be suitable.  In addition, it would be appreciated if further information could be provided on the steps the IAEA has already undertaken in this regard, including through sharing of correspondence, where applicable;
  • We would also encourage engagement and coordination with relevant regional organisations, such as the African Union’s Centre for Disease Control (AU CDC), which has performed commendably from the beginning of the outbreak of COVID-19. The AU CDC already has vast experience with regard to the One Health Approach as the Centre supports AU Member States in the surveillance and diagnosis of pathogens. The AU CDC also collaborates closely and coordinates actions with the Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources.
  • Moving forward, South Africa, like other Member States, believes that further engagement and in-depth discussion is required regarding the implementation of Pillars 2 to 5 of ZODIAC.  This is especially important because some of the activities foreseen under these Pillars are not mainstream activities for the IAEA. Therefore, we urge the step-by-step implementation of ZODIAC is essential to ensure that Member States and the Secretariat move together as this project unfolds.

 Regarding Pillar 1 we request that the Secretariat to:

  • Provide further detail on the plan to ensure sustainability for laboratory support,
  • Provide further information on how coordination with the OIE’s existing laboratory sustainability programme will be ensured;
  • Ensure that in the implementation of this Pillar that existing structures and tools in the delivery of the project is used, including VETLABS and the OIE’s well-developed network of existing international reference laboratory and collaborating centres; and
  • Ensure that the other approved footnote/a projects receive equal attention when the IAEA seeks extra-budgetary funding sources and that ZODIAC does not overshadow the other essential work the IAEA undertakes in Technical Cooperation Programme, especially because these projects as proposed by Member States address other critical needs.

We have noted that in addition to supporting the distribution of equipment and training and diagnostic support for ZODIAC, the VETLAB Network also continued to assist partner veterinary laboratories in addressing critical issues during the reporting period. These include support provided to Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Senegal to address the lethal virus disease called the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease. In Asia, VETLABS, supported Member States with the emergence of Lumpy Skin Disease, a viral disease affecting cattle over the past number of months.  It is important that these activities continue as ZODIAC is developed and expanded.  

In conclusion, we are pleased that ZODIAC will aim to strengthen and expand the Agency’s collaboration and partnership with all Member States and other relevant international and regional organisations.  We look forward to further engagement as we move forward.

With these remarks, the South Africa takes note of document GOV/2020/37 (and its associated recommendations).

I thank you.

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