Rafael Grossi: The Argentine Director-General of IAEA

Illustration by Janeette Khouri

Rafael Mariano Grossi was introduced as the Argentine candidate for IAEA Director-General on August 2, 2019. The IAEA Board of Governors held its first vote to elect the new Director-General on October 28, 2019, but none of the candidates received the required two-thirds majority in the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors.

The second voting round was held the following day, on October 29. Mr. Grossi received 24 of the 23 votes required for Director-General Appointment, becoming the organization's first Latin American leader. He took office on December 3, 2019.

Mr. Grossi is a diplomat with more than 35 years of experience in nonproliferation and disarmament. In 2013, he was appointed Argentina's Ambassador to Austria, as well as the Argentine Representative to the IAEA and other Vienna-based international organizations.

Mr. Grossi earned a BA in Political Sciences from the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina in 1983, and he joined the Argentine Foreign Service in 1985. He received his MA and PhD in International Relations, History, and International Politics from the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International Studies in 1997.

Mr. Grossi began working on the nuclear policy during a collaboration between the Argentine Foreign Service and INVAP. He served as President of the United Nations Group of Government Experts on the International Weapons Registry from 1997 to 2000. He later became a disarmament adviser to the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General.

Mr. Grossi served as Chief of Staff of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons from 2002 to 2007. He visited North Korea's nuclear facilities while working for the UN and took part in several meetings with Iranian representatives to reach an agreement to freeze the country's nuclear program.

During his work for the Argentine Foreign Service, he was the General Director of Political Coordination of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship, Ambassador to Belgium, and the Argentine Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva.

Mr. Grossi was the Deputy Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 2010 to 2013, and last year, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner appointed him as Ambassador to Austria and International Organizations based in Vienna, as well as concurrently in Slovakia and Slovenia.

Mr. Grossi was nominated as a candidate for Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by the Argentine government in September 2015, with support from other Latin American and Caribbean countries. However, in 2016, Mauricio Macri's government withdrew its support for Susana Malcorra's candidacy for UN Secretary-General. He was President of the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2016.

President Macri announced in 2017 that he would nominate Mr. Grossi to preside over the 2020 Review Conference of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Mr. Grossi had the idea of reviewing the records of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) hydro-acoustic stations as an alternative to obtaining clues about what happened with the submarine in November 2017, after the disappearance of ARA San Juan.

He approached Lassina Zerbo, the CTBTO's Executive Secretary, and persuaded her to conduct such reviews. His efforts were rewarded: the agency later reported on "an underwater impulse event" that occurred near the submarine's last known position by the listening posts on Ascension and Crozet Islands at 46.12°S 59.69°W. The wreckage of the ill-fated ship was discovered a year later, about twenty kilometers from the estimated position based on the records cited.

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