Presentation of Peace Award to IAEA by the Albert Schweitzer International University, Spain

Vienna, Austria

by David Waller, IAEA Deputy Director General

Mr. President, your Excellencies, Distinguished Professors and Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and a pleasure this evening to accept - on behalf of the International Atomic Energy Agency - this award from the Albert Schweitzer International University.

The Medal - as is reflected in its name "Science and Peace" - is, I believe, particularly fitting to the IAEA (or simply the "Agency" as it is often called). The Agency was founded, nearly half a century ago, as a result of an initiative of US President Eisenhower. In 1953 - a time of great fear of the spread of nuclear weapons - he delivered a landmark statement before the UN General Assembly that has become known as the "Atoms for Peace" speech. In it, he proposed the establishment of an international agency with two distinct purposes, corresponding to the two sides of the "nuclear coin": on the one side - as regards peace - to help prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and, on the other - as regards science - to encourage applications of the many peaceful nuclear techniques for the benefit of human kind.

Just last week, in fact, I participated in a conference in Washington D.C. marking, to the day, the 50th anniversary of Eisenhower's speech and analysing the results of the "Atoms for Peace" initiative that emerged from it. In an address I gave at that Conference, I pointed out that those two purposes became - and remain today - the cornerstones of the IAEA.

Thus, "Atoms for Peace" - and its institutional offspring, the IAEA - correspond exactly to the concept of "Science and Peace".

First, with regard to the science. The Agency promotes and transfers, especially to the developing world, nuclear applications in such vital areas as agriculture, water resource management, and - especially relevant to Dr Schweitzer's work - medicine.

Dr. Schweitzer was, of course, a man of extraordinarily wide abilities and interests, but perhaps the world remembers him best for his medical work in Africa. I mention that because a significant part of our nuclear technology transfer programme takes place on that, all too often forgotten, continent. In medicine, we have, for example, a major initiative in radiation therapy, in response to the rapidly growing incidence of cancer in the developing world and the resulting desperate need for more professionals and treatment centres. And in agriculture, we have applied the so-called sterile insect technique (in which male insect pests are sterilized by radiation and released in the wild in large numbers) to eradicate, for example, the screwworm fly from Libya and the tsetse fly from Zanzibar. The programme has eliminated these pests - that had so devastated economies and spread disease to both livestock and humans - where massive applications of harmful pesticides had repeatedly failed. And in helping to alleviate the chronic shortage of drinking water affecting much of Africa, a number of hydrology projects are focusing on understanding and managing underground water aquifers in the Nile Basin, the Nubian and Northwest Sahara systems and a system that runs through Mali, Niger and Nigeria.

At the same time, on the other side of the "nuclear coin" is the work for which the Agency has become so widely known in the media and amongst the public in the past few years - connected with our verification of the promises made by countries to use nuclear technology and materials solely for peaceful purposes. And here, of course, our work on Iraq, North Korea and Iran springs to mind. In these cases, among others, the Agency - in its role as the world's so-called "nuclear watchdog" - has strived, using a mixture of technology and diplomacy, to bring resolution to these highly charged situations.

In Iraq, at the request of the Security Council, we sought out and destroyed a clandestine nuclear weapons programme. In North Korea, we determined, and made public our conclusion, that it had violated its promise not to produce undeclared nuclear material. And in Iran - a work in progress - we are currently conducting intensive inspections and analyses to determine whether its ambitious nuclear programme is, as claimed by Iran, exclusively for peaceful purposes.

The Director General, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, recently noted that the Agency is, at times like these, in a position to affect decisions leading to war or peace, and - he stressed - we must continue, always, to exercise our best judgement and to maintain our traditions of independence, impartiality and professionalism.

I mentioned the wide range of abilities and interests of the extraordinary Dr. Schweitzer. The Agency can, in its way, also be proud of the broad scope of its programme, a programme that serves and brings value to each of its 137 Member States, and results in their support - political, financial and moral - at a level that is unique among the many organizations in the UN family.

Our staff will, of course, continue their work in furthering both purposes - science and peace. And, for them, recent months - indeed recent years - as you have seen from the media, have been particularly demanding. I am therefore especially pleased to accept this distinguished award on behalf of the staff of the IAEA, and on behalf of Mohamed ElBaradei, whose exceptional leadership has steered us through these challenging times.

Last update: 13 November 2014