According to the statute of the IAEA, the agency "shall seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world. It shall ensure, so far as it is able, that assistance provided by it or at its request or under its supervision and control is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose."
The IAEA acts as a clearinghouse for the pooling and coordination of experience and research in the peaceful uses of nuclear power. It helps its member countries acquire the necessary skills and materials to share in the benefits of the atomic age. In practice, the IAEA has been particularly concerned with bringing the advantages of atomic energy to underdeveloped regions.
The IAEA is obliged under its statute to "ensure, so far as it is able," that all the activities in which it takes part are directed exclusively to civilian uses. A second important task of the IAEA, then, is to establish a system of supervision and control to make certain that none of the assistance programs that it fosters and none of the materials whose distribution it supervises are used for military purposes. This aspect of the work assumed significance far beyond its primary objective when the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons came into force in March 1970, since the IAEA is the body responsible for the necessary control system under that treaty.