Director General's Intervention on Budget at IAEA Board of Governors

Vienna, Austria

by IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei

Vienna, Austria
IAEA Board of Governors
 

Thank you very much, Chairwoman. I apologize for taking the floor again on the budget issue after my statement yesterday, but I would like to make some things quite clear.

We have submitted to you a budget that is credible. Some people talk about a realistic budget. I don´t submit a realistic budget. I submit a credible budget. That means a budget that would allow us to perform our tasks, which are at the very heart of peace, security and development. I, and my colleagues, have a great responsibility on our shoulders and there is no way that we will submit any budget if I, in conscience, do not feel that it will adequately enable us to address non-proliferation, safety, security and development.

What you are reaping today is what you have sown for the last 20 years. For the last 20 years we have been told in good times, when you had plenty of money, and in bad times, that the policy is zero growth, and we have been telling you that zero growth continues to erode our ability to fulfil our responsibilities. It was only three years ago that I came here and said that we will not be able to live with zero growth and I got a minor increase. Today, the situation is worse, much worse.

I have heard that there is a policy of zero growth vis-à-vis all international organizations. You have asked us to prioritize, but I assume you are not prioritizing yourselves. To submit all international organizations as a group - irrespective of their mandates and priorities - to zero budget growth, I would suggest, is not practising what you are preaching to us, which is to prioritize. I would be happy to have my colleagues discuss with you the priorities in our budget. We have different priorities and there are priorities of different groups of countries. I take the development priority just as seriously as safety, security and non-proliferation. I have said a number of times that poverty is the most powerful weapon of mass destruction. President Obama said recently that there is a strong linkage between poverty and insecurity and we need to understand that. I am not one of those who say "let us focus on safety and security and non-proliferation and not on poverty" because I believe that, aside from being a statutory function, fighting poverty is absolutely at the heart of our security system.

We have heard a number of proposals. If an international organization is told, as we have been, that we have to borrow money - go to banks and borrow money - that means we need a guarantee that we will pay it back, and it means we will have to pay interest. If we are told to use internal borrowing, that can only come from the Technical Cooperation programme. That money is earning interest in a bank account and we don´t know when we will have to use it. The whole idea that now we either have to go out and borrow or hold out our hands and say "please give us some money to do security and safety," is really a bastardization of an international organization.

What is the impact on safety and security? The impact is that I hire people - cost-free experts - who are not necessarily qualified, who do not go through the competitive process, who distort the geographical balance. But I have to get them because if I don´t, I can´t perform the functions. We have 100 cost-free experts and extrabudgetary staff, about one eighth of our professional staff. That is not the situation we should be in as an organization that is supposed to spearhead peace and security.

We are told to save. How am I going to save $60 million? I can cut a large proportion of the staff and it will not get the $60 million. There is something else which to me is not right - when our external consultant says that there is no way we can achieve great savings until we have AIPS, and then we are told at the same time that we don´t have money for AIPS. This is a chicken and egg situation. I can only have savings if I have AIPS, but I can´t have AIPS because there is no money for AIPS.

When I see countries such as the USA saying that we need to double the Agency budget in four years and supposedly like-minded countries saying zero growth, well, we are obviously not talking to each other or addressing our priorities properly. If we look at 2020 and the Commission of Eminent Persons - 18 people of the highest calibre, including prime ministers and experts - it didn´t take them very long to say that the Agency needs € 80 million upfront to deal with its dilapidated infrastructure. Then I come here and I hear that we have to have zero growth. Again, there is something that is not right.

Today, our lab does not have the equipment needed to do the particle analysis, which is the most sensitive analysis. How can I come here and tell you I have credible conclusions on issues that have to do with war and peace? If I don´t have the Emergency Centre and there is an accident tomorrow, we will not be able to fulfil our responsibility under the two Conventions of assistance and notification. How can I be told to present a realistic budget if we don´t have AIPS and are working in the dark because we don´t really know how we can do proper accounting or bring about proper savings?

So let us be very clear. I presented a budget, the only budget that I will present to you. We agree with the Vice-Chairman and the Chairman that maybe we can stretch the numbers, but the numbers are not going to change much. However, at the end of the day it´s your budget. If you come to me and say you will cut here and there, then that is your budget. But then, as I said yesterday, I will state loud and clear what the implications are. I and my colleagues will not assume any responsibility if in a couple years from now we see another Chernobyl, or a nuclear terrorist attack, or a clandestine nuclear programme. I have to make that very clear. I cannot say, in the same breath, that there are about 50 countries looking into nuclear power and I have two staff members supporting these 50 countries. If you open any newspaper today, you see nuclear security is the number one security priority - yet I have just three people doing nuclear security. And I get extrabudgetary contributions with lots of conditions attached.

This is the situation. I put to you the situation as factually as possible. We obviously will continue to look for savings here and there. The term "austerity measures" is a misnomer. We don´t travel for tourism, we travel to deliver a programme. We don´t hire a consultant to come here to spend a week in Vienna. The consultant comes to provide a service. These are not austerity measures, these are programme cuts. Let us call a spade a spade. This is the situation.

I just wanted to be clear with you as you continue with your exercise. We will do our best to work with the Vice-Chair and Chair to try to stretch out the timeframe. The only area that we can stretch is the Capital Investment Fund, but that, again, will have serious implications.

If we start to open the question of balance - I heard the G77 talk about shielding again - well, the 77 would be correct to say, "Why are we paying a hundred million dollars for safeguards but not getting money for technical cooperation or our priorities?" Let us establish a parameter. There must be a balance. The priorities of the Agency are the priorities of everybody. We need the money to maintain a credible programme. If you decide in your own wisdom that you want to cut, that´s your prerogative, but then it is your budget and I will spell out the implications, privately and publicly, because we will not assume any responsibility for a budget which I know would be misleading the public. I would be misleading world public opinion to create an impression that we are doing what we are supposed to do, when we know that we don´t have the money to do it.

Last update: 17 November 2014