UN nuclear watchdog seeks fast choice of new head

The IAEA board said the new director will assume office no later than January 2020. (File/AFP)
Updated 01 August 2019

UN nuclear watchdog seeks fast choice of new head

  • The board named Cornel Feruta as a temporary head for the agency
  • Applications for the post will be accepted till September 5

VIENNA: The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog wants to appoint a new director general in October, shortening its selection process at a time of dangerous geopolitical frictions between Iran and the West.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano died last month, requiring a new leader at a time of global anxiety over the implications of last year’s US pullout of a 2015 deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.
The 35-nation board of governors last week named Romanian diplomat Cornel Feruta to head the agency temporarily.
Applications for the permanent post must be in by Sept. 5, the IAEA said on Thursday.
“The Board expects to appoint a Director General in October 2019 and, in any case, envisages that the person appointed will assume office no later than 1 January 2020,” it said.
That is an ambitious schedule for the 171-nation agency, which normally needs several months to agree on a candidate.
It reflects the urgency for stability at the helm of the IAEA at a time when President Donald Trump has reimposed US sanctions on Iran, and the fate of the 2015 deal, which the UN body has been overseeing, is unclear.
Russia’s Vienna-based diplomatic mission to international organizations tweeted that the modified procedure reflected “extraordinary circumstances and should not be considered a precedent.”
Some diplomats see Argentina’s ambassador to the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, as a likely new director general and he confirmed on Wednesday he would run for the job.
The board’s candidate for the four-year post must be approved by the IAEA’s general conference, which next meets from September 16-20.
Japanese diplomat Amano, who died aged 72 and had been expected to step down early because of illness, had held the position since 2009, through a period of intense diplomacy over Iran and a vain push for the IAEA to return to North Korea.


Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

Updated 10 August 2020

Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

MANILA: Virgilio Estuesta has picked through trash in the Philippines’ biggest city for four decades, and is noticing an unusually large amount of plastics during his daily trawl of about 15 km (9.3 miles).
Tough curbs re-imposed to combat a surge in daily coronavirus infections are squeezing income for the 60-year-old, as many of the junkyards and businesses in Manila that buy his recyclables have been closed since March.
Plastic items, such as bottles and containers, dominate the contents of the rickety wooden cart Estuesta pushes through the deserted streets, far more than metals and cardboard, yet the money they bring in is not enough to get by.
“It’s been really hard for us, it’s been difficult looking for recyclables that sell high,” he said.
“Recently we’ve been seeing a lot more plastics, but the problem is they don’t really sell high.”
Environmentalists say the Philippines is battling one of the world’s biggest problems stemming from single-use plastics, and ranks among the biggest contributors to plastic pollution of the oceans. It has no reliable data for its plastics consumption.
Greenpeace campaigner Marian Ledesma said consumers and businesses are now using yet more single-use plastics, in a bid to ward off virus infections.
“The pandemic has really increased plastic pollution,” she added. “Just because there’s a lot more people using disposables now, due to misconceptions and fears around transmitting the virus.”
Since March 16, Manila has experienced lockdowns of varying levels of severity, in some of the world’s longest and tightest measures to curb the spread of the virus.
They are taking a toll on Estuesta, who hopes to start earning soon.
“When you go out, the police will reprimand you,” he said. “I was stuck at home and had to rely on government aid, which was not enough. I had to resort to borrowing money from people.”