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May 19, 2021
IAEA Budget Gets Modest Boost

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Peter Crail

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors voted Aug. 3 for a rare hike in the agency’s budget, raising its 2010 budget to $453 million. That rise represents a 2.7 percent real increase above the 2009 budget, on top of a 2.7 percent increase to adjust for inflation. The 5.4 percent hike is half the 11 percent increase sought by IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei. A preliminary estimate for 2011 includes an 11.4 percent increase over the agency’s 2010 budget. That figure is first subject to consideration by a working group the board established to assess the agency’s resources, priorities, and budgets up to 2013.

The board decision on the 2010 budget must be approved by the IAEA General Conference, which meets this month.

The budget increase was the result of about six months of negotiations, in which the United States, the agency’s largest contributor, lobbied to raise funding. Reuters reported Aug. 3 and Arms Control Today confirmed with diplomatic sources that other major funders, including Canada and most western European countries, opposed the move, arguing instead for continuing the zero real-growth policy that the IAEA’s primary funders have generally maintained. Most other international organizations are governed by the same budget policy.

In addition to arguing for adhering to the zero real-growth policy, some countries have noted the additional challenge of the current international financial situation. In a May 5 interview with Arms Control Today, Bill Rammell, then the British minister of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, said that although there may be movement on increasing the agency’s funding “over the medium term,” in the current fiscal climate it was “unrealistic” to expect a major increase in the agency’s budget. (See ACT, June 2009.)

Laying out his nuclear security strategy during the 2008 presidential election campaign, Barack Obama called for doubling the agency’s budget over the next four years. He has reaffirmed that policy since taking office.

In June, Washington announced that it was increasing its own 2009 voluntary contribution to the agency by 20 percent, or about $10 million.

Responding to the board decision, Susan Doman, spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to the IAEA, said Aug. 3, “The international community has sent a signal today that we all view the IAEA mission as too important to be bound by the zero growth policies applied elsewhere in the UN system.”

Washington similarly pressed for the most recent budget hike, in 2003. A source who was in the Department of State at the time said Aug. 19 that Washington believed that, after 15 years under the zero real-growth policy, there was a gap between the demands on the agency and its capacity. The former official added that the United States similarly argued at that time that there should not be a “one size fits all” approach for funding international bodies because demands on certain organizations differ over time.

Paris welcomed the budget hike in spite of its initial opposition prior to the decision. In an Aug. 4 statement, the French Foreign Ministry said the increase “should permit the IAEA completely to fulfill its mandate to develop civilian nuclear energy under the best safety, security and nonproliferation conditions.”

For the last several years, ElBaradei has pushed for a funding boost, warning that the budget limitations jeopardize nuclear safety and security. (See ACT, July/August 2007.) He told the board June 16 that “zero growth continues to erode our ability to fulfill our responsibilities.”

The director-general rejected other proposals to address the agency’s funding needs, such as seeking private loans. “The whole idea that now we either have to go out and borrow or hold out our hands and say ‘please give us some money to do security and safety’ is really a bastardization of an international organization,” he said.

The budget decision includes the establishment of a capital investment fund to support infrastructure development over the next several years. The agency has been seeking such funds to modernize its ailing laboratories, which are used to analyze nuclear material and environmental samples.

Amano Gets Final Nod

Meanwhile, after several months of voting attempts, the board elected Yukiya Amano as its fifth director-general July 2. Amano, who currently serves as Japan’s permanent representative to the IAEA, will take office after ElBaradei steps down Nov. 30, the end of his third four-year term.

The 35-member board elected Amano with a vote of 23 in favor, 11 against, and 1 abstention, providing him with the two-thirds majority necessary to win.

The Japanese career diplomat won the vote over two other candidates, South Africa’s permanent representative to the IAEA Abdul Minty and Luis Echávarri of Spain, head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency. Also in the running were Slovenia’s Ernest Petrič and Jean-Pol Poncelet of Belgium. (See ACT, May 2009.)

In a March matchup with Minty, Amano fell one vote short of the needed two-thirds. Support for the two candidates was largely split between the industrialized and developing countries, with the former largely favoring Amano and the latter generally supporting Minty.

Amano promised in a statement following the appointment to devote “every effort to the effective, efficient and impartial functioning of the Agency in the interest of all member states.”