Statement on Occasion of Receiving Four Freedoms Award

Vienna, Austria

by IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei

Middelburg, The Netherlands
Four Freedoms Award

We live in a world in which these four pillars that are essential to the well-being, dignity and fulfilment of every one of us - the freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear - are unfortunately not enjoyed by everyone. It is therefore no surprise that this is a world not at peace with itself. A world that, too often, resorts to force in trying to settle differences. A world in which human rights abuses or inhumane living conditions are the norm for almost half of our fellow human beings.

In addition, it is a world in which we continue to see a reliance on nuclear weapons - with over 27 000 nuclear warheads in existence.

This contrasts sharply with Roosevelt´s vision of freedom from fear, which he said would mean "a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbour - anywhere in the world".

We also now know that the freedom from fear - as with the case of my fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi - includes security threats that are internal to States - such as suppression of human rights and civil wars.

The current global approach to security is in my view dysfunctional, and cannot endure. We therefore need to work urgently towards the development of a new collective security system. A system that is effective and equitable, and addresses the security needs of all. A system that is based not on nuclear deterrence, but on human security, human solidarity and human interdependence. This requires a new mindset and reformed institutions.

In short, we need to change our approach to security - as Roosevelt eloquently put it - we need "a perpetual peaceful revolution, a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions". But for that revolution to happen, we need to understand what it is that needs to be changed.

Here in Europe, most of us take the four freedoms for granted. The freedoms of speech and religion are protected by law, a social network exists for the needy, and security - from both internal and external threats - is ensured by the State. This is no small achievement.

But in many parts of the world, the picture is very different. It is estimated that every day more than 20 000 people die "because they are too poor to stay alive". They die of causes that could actually be addressed for a relatively modest investment.

Experts tell us that, for an additional 65 billion euros per year, we could cut world hunger in half, put programmes in place for clean water worldwide, enable reproductive health care for women everywhere, eradicate illiteracy and provide immunization for every child.

Consider, by comparison, that in 2004, we increased our expenditures on armaments by more than 200 billion euros.

The question is, therefore, how meaningful are the freedoms we enjoy, and how long will they last, if we remain indifferent to the plight of our fellow human beings who are caught up in a web of intolerance, poverty, repression and fear? In combination, it is these very conditions that can lead to despair and humiliation, which in turn breed extremism and terrorism - the very threats that, ultimately, affect the freedoms of every one of us.

Regardless of differences of nationality, ethnicity, culture or faith, it is high time to understand that we are all part of one human family, with shared core values - and what is more important is that we act accordingly. As President Roosevelt aptly put it in 1941, "Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere".

Clearly, this continues to be a work in progress. At the IAEA, my colleagues and I will continue to work against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and towards nuclear disarmament - and at the same time to promote the use of science for peace and development.

It is in this spirit that I gratefully accept the Four Freedoms Award.

Last update: 17 November 2014