A World Within Our Grasp

by Mohamed ElBaradei

The Nobel Lecture given by the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Mohamed ElBaradei in Oslo, December 10, 2005



Your Majesties, Your Royal Highness, Honourable Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

The International Atomic Energy Agency and I are humbled, proud, delighted and above all strengthened in our resolve by this most worthy of honours.

My sister-in-law works for a group that supports orphanages in Cairo. She and her colleagues take care of children left behind by circumstances beyond their control. They feed these children, clothe them and teach them to read.

At the International Atomic Energy Agency, my colleagues and I work to keep nuclear materials out of the reach of extremist groups. We inspect nuclear facilities all over the world, to be sure that peaceful nuclear activities are not being used as a cloak for weapons programmes.

My sister-in-law and I are working towards the same goal, through different paths: the security of the human family. But why has this security so far eluded us?

I believe it is because our security strategies have not yet caught up with the risks we are facing. The globalization that has swept away the barriers to the movement of goods, ideas and people has also swept with it barriers that confined and localized security threats.

A recent United Nations High-Level Panel identified five categories of threats that we face:

  1. Poverty, Infectious Disease, and Environmental Degradation;
  2. Armed Conflict — both within and among States;
  3. Organized Crime;
  4. Terrorism; and
  5. Weapons of Mass Destruction.

These are all ‘threats without borders’ — where traditional notions of national security have become obsolete. We cannot respond to these threats by building more walls, developing bigger weapons, or dispatching more troops. Quite to the contrary. By their very nature, these security threats require primarily multinational cooperation.
But what is more important is that these are not separate or distinct threats. When we scratch the surface, we find them closely connected and interrelated.

We are 1000 people here today in this august hall. Imagine for a moment that we represent the world’s population. These 200 people on my left would be the wealthy of the world, who consume 80% of the available resources. And these 400 people on my right would be living on an income of less than $2 per day.

This underprivileged group of people on my right is no less intelligent or less worthy than their fellow human beings on the other side of the aisle. They were simply born into this fate.

In the real world, this imbalance in living conditions inevitably leads to inequality of opportunity, and in many cases loss of hope. And what is worse, all too often the plight of the poor is compounded by and results in human rights abuses, a lack of good governance, and a deep sense of injustice. This combination naturally creates a most fertile breeding ground for civil wars, organized crime, and extremism in its different forms.

In regions where conflicts have been left to fester for decades, countries continue to look for ways to offset their insecurities or project their ‘power’. In some cases, they may be tempted to seek their own weapons of mass destruction, like others who have preceded them.

Fifteen years ago, when the Cold War ended, many of us hoped for a new world order to emerge. A world order rooted in human solidarity — a world order that would be equitable, inclusive and effective.

But today we are nowhere near that goal. We may have torn down the walls between East and West, but we have yet to build the bridges between North and South — the rich and the poor.

Consider our development aid record. Last year, the nations of the world spent over $1 trillion on armaments. But we contributed less than 10% of that amount — a mere $80 billion — as official development assistance to the developing parts of the world, where 850 million people suffer from hunger.

My friend James Morris heads the World Food Programme, whose task it is to feed the hungry. He recently told me, “If I could have just 1% of the money spent on global armaments, no one in this world would go to bed hungry.”

It should not be a surprise then that poverty continues to breed conflict. Of the 13 million deaths due to armed conflict in the last ten years, 9 million occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, where the poorest of the poor live.

Consider also our approach to the sanctity and value of human life. In the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, we all grieved deeply, and expressed outrage at this heinous crime — and rightly so. But many people today are unaware that, as the result of civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 3.8 million people have lost their lives since 1998.

Are we to conclude that our priorities are skewed, and our approaches uneven?
With this ‘big picture’ in mind, we can better understand the changing landscape in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

There are three main features to this changing landscape: the emergence of an extensive black market in nuclear material and equipment; the proliferation of nuclear weapons and sensitive nuclear technology; and the stagnation in nuclear disarmament.

Today, with globalization bringing us ever closer together, if we choose to ignore the insecurities of some, they will soon become the insecurities of all.

Equally, with the spread of advanced science and technology, as long as some of us choose to rely on nuclear weapons, we continue to risk that these same weapons will become increasingly attractive to others.

I have no doubt that, if we hope to escape self-destruction, then nuclear weapons should have no place in our collective conscience, and no role in our security.

To that end, we must ensure — absolutely — that no more countries acquire these deadly weapons.

We must see to it that nuclear-weapon States take concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament.

And we must put in place a security system that does not rely on nuclear deterrence.
Are these goals realistic and within reach? I do believe they are. But then three steps are urgently required.

First, keep nuclear and radiological material out of the hands of extremist groups. In 2001, the IAEA together with the international community launched a worldwide campaign to enhance the security of such material. Protecting nuclear facilities. Securing powerful radioactive sources. Training law enforcement officials. Monitoring border crossings. In four years, we have completed perhaps 50% of the work. But this is not fast enough, because we are in a race against time.

Second, tighten control over the operations for producing the nuclear material that could be used in weapons. Under the current system, any country has the right to master these operations for civilian uses. But in doing so, it also masters the most difficult steps in making a nuclear bomb.

To overcome this, I am hoping that we can make these operations multinational — so that no one country can have exclusive control over any such operation. My plan is to begin by setting up a reserve fuel bank, under IAEA control, so that every country will be assured that it will get the fuel needed for its bona fide peaceful nuclear activities. This assurance of supply will remove the incentive — and the justification — for each country to develop its own fuel cycle. We should then be able to agree on a moratorium on new national facilities, and to begin work on multinational arrangements for enrichment, fuel production, waste disposal and reprocessing.

We must also strengthen the verification system. IAEA inspections are the heart and soul of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. To be effective, it is essential that we are provided with the necessary authority, information, advanced technology, and resources. And our inspections must be backed by the UN Security Council, to be called on in cases of non-compliance.

Third, accelerate disarmament efforts. We still have eight or nine countries who possess nuclear weapons. We still have 27,000 warheads in existence. I believe this is 27,000 too many.

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