Today was the first day of the 53rd IAEA General Conference. First thing was that Secretary Chu (yes, the secretary of energy!) came down to the US delegation room to talk during the delegation meeting and then we all headed out to the Plenary meeting for the welcoming speech and the beginning of the national statements.
After breaking for, but before I ate, lunch, I attended part of a seminar on US civil nuclear programs and after lunch I attended a briefing about Technical Cooperation (TC).
This was basically the same thing as Monday was, listening to statements during the main Plenary meetings. It's basically what it was all week. I helped to take notes during part of the meetings and so had to pay more attention than I would if I was doing nothing, and it helped that as the conference went on, things became more interesting as resolutions and amendments, etc... were debated.
There was an interesting point towards lunch time after Israel had read their statement, when Iran spoke up and said that they wanted to reply to that statement as they are entitled to under Rule 58, which states that "During the course of a debate the presiding officer may announce a list of speakers and, with the consent of the General Conference, declare the list closed. He may, however, accord the right of reply to any delegate if a speech delivered after the list has been closed makes this desirable" (GC Rules and Procedures). So the President ruled that we had to wait for the last 3 countries to speak and then Iran got about 3 minutes to reply to the statement. It wasn't exciting as we all though it would be when they first brought it up, but it was still a little ripple of anticipation of what was to come later on.
I started out at the Plenary meeting and then Stephanie (my boss) took me out to the Committee of the Whole (CoW) meeting that was taking place to listen to some of the debate going on about the resolutions. While I didn't understand a lot of what was being talked about, or why people were arguing over 1 or 2 words in a sentence, it was still really interesting to basically see diplomacy in action.
After that I went back to the Plenary to take notes again. The statements were all mainly about the nuclear programs of whichever country was speaking and if they had been set up, or if they wanted to set them up, etc...
That afternoon I went to a PACT meeting. PACT stands for Program of Action for Cancer Therapy. The meeting I went to was about cancer prevention in developing countries around the world, but focused on Tanzania, Mongolia and Vietnam where there were Model Demonstration Sites (PMDS) set up, and had speakers from all three of those countries talking about PACT and what it and the IAEA in general were doing for their countries. The Nigerian ambassador also spoke for a little bit on behalf of his wife about the need to make cancer treatment a priority in global health management.
September 17th - My Birthday!
Well the day started out with me getting a birthday cake from a co-worker! Very yummy cake, and also a present of Skippy Peanut Butter and a nice card from another! I also got a happy birthday from the Israeli ambassador, which was pretty cool! More statements to listen to, and I was the "offical" notetaker this morning instead of just taking over for people who had to leave the meeting early! I took notes on the statements from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Norway, Columbia, Singapore, Bangladesh, and Niger. I thought that they were all really interesting, except the ones that were kind of difficult to understand... because when taking notes I had to listen extra carefully to get down the points I was supposed to- Middle East in general, Iran, Syria, DPRK, fuel bank, etc..
After lunch, I went to a meeting on the European Regional Meeting where they were talking about program implementation and preparation of strategy for the Europe Region TCP (technical cooperation program). It was pretty interesting, but basically just the basics of what the European Region TCP was and some talk about budgets, etc...
After that I went back to the CoW meeting were they were hashing out the resolution paragraph by paragraph. It's different than the Plenary because the answers and statements are shorter and it's more discussion/argumentative and they are in response in each other's answers/questions/arguments. The resolution that was being worked on when I sat in was about non-power generating nuclear stuff, i.e. producing potable water, cancer therapy, water resource management, etc...
Today was very interesting! As the last day of the GC, it was crammed full of stuff that people had been waiting for the last day to push through. The first plenary session in the morning dealt with the Israeli Nuclear Capabilities (INC) resolution that the Arab states brought to the floor for discussion. It was a very spirited debate! The resolution basically wants the agency to force all countries with nuclear capabilities, including Israel, to adhere to the Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT). Canada asked for a non action vote which did not pass in favor of the Arab states and so from there it went to a vote as to see if it would pass in whole and the Arab states and those that voted with them won with the vote at 49-45 with 16 abstaining. While it was a loss for the US and its allies, from a complete newcomer's perspective it was really interesting and kind of exciting to watch this all unfold. The meeting let out for lunch and we came back and it was just more talk afterwards and the plenary was supposed to come back at 6pm to talk about other resolutions that were being debated no in the CoW, but just past 6, a note came on the big screens saying that the Plenary would not begin again until 9pm, so I was sent home. I found out later that it didn't end until around 1am Saturday morning.
Saturday I basically just walked around, did some shopping, bought groceries- tried to do everything I could because most everything is closed on Sundays.
Sunday I went to the zoo with a friend I met here who is studying abroad from Canada. The zoo is at Schonbrunn palace, a little ways away in the gardens of really, so we though it would be this small little zoo. How wrong we were! We spent 4 hours there and didn't cover the entire place. They had all kinds of animals there, but my favorite exhibit was the lemur/meerkat one with polar bears coming in a close second.
photo by the Tiergarten Zoo