GC41 logo

Statement by Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei Director General elect of the IAEA on the occasion of the approval of his appointment by the General Conference
29 September 1997


I am grateful for, and humbled by, your confidence and support. As I just pledged, I will do all I can to fulfil the duties of the office objectively, impartially and efficiently, guided by our Statute and your directives.

Intergovernmental organizations are instruments for cooperation among States for the common good. They are at their best when consensus prevails. They can be paralyzed when dissension dominates. For international organizations to enjoy the confidence and support of their members they have to be responsive to their needs, show concrete achievements, conduct their activities in a cost-effective manner and respect a process of equitable representation, transparency and open dialogue.

The IAEA is an organization for the promotion of peace and sustainable development through international cooperation to utilize nuclear energy safely, whilst curbing nuclear weapons' proliferation and hopefully one day verifying their elimination. The Agency can justly be proud of its record, to which Dr. Blix, to whom I pay special tribute, has contributed in such an outstanding manner during his tenure. He steered the Agency through turbulent times with deftness and vision.

Many challenging and complex tasks, however, remain ahead of us. The use of nuclear technology to satisfy people's needs for energy, food, health and water, among other basic needs, has not yet reached its full potential. It is clear that nuclear power will continue to have a key role to play as an important source in the energy mix of many countries for strategic, economic and environmental reasons. Radioisotope applications are also essential in many fields of human endeavours. It is thus important that the Agency continue, in accordance with its Statute, to encourage the development and refinement of these technologies, help frame acceptable responses to related concerns and make available its expertise to those who so desire. The Agency's role as an objective mechanism for information exchange and comparative assessment is unique. Equally unique is the Agency's role as a vehicle for transfer of nuclear technology and development assistance. Technical cooperation, a critical component of international consensus underpinning the peaceful use of nuclear energy, should, therefore, be sustained, expanded and adequately financed. But the programme must be linked as closely as possible with the priorities for economic and social development in recipient countries with emphasis on quality projects, efficient delivery and technical cooperation among the developing countries TCDC.

The use of nuclear energy is, however, linked not only to technological advances but equally hinges upon public trust that it is utilized at a high level of safety and exclusively for peaceful purposes. The safety regime has made important strides over the last decade but needs consolidation as a comprehensive and coherent set of well accepted standards. The transformation of many of the safety norms into conventions and "hard law" is a welcome development that should continue with emphasis on wide adherence. The regime also needs to focus on helping States with its practical implementation, especially in radiation protection, reactor safety, waste disposal and transport, physical protection and illicit trafficking, where problem areas remain.

The verification of non-proliferation undertakings, vital to international security, has learned from recent setbacks in particular that it cannot confine itself to declared activities only. It is now successfully making the necessary transition to greater rigour through the efforts put in hand to strengthen the system and expand the scope of its application. The new measures are designed to cover not only declared but also possible undeclared activities, provide the Agency with additional information and access rights, make use of state of the art technology and increase efficiency. The Agency must, on the basis of these new transparency measures, be able to provide additional assurances about an inspected State's nuclear activities, as this will undoubtedly become of critical importance as we move towards nuclear disarmament. It is, therefore, pivotal that the protocol, which incorporates these measures, gains universal support.

These are challenging tasks, but within our grasp. The IAEA Secretariat can and will do as much as its Member States want it to do, but this presupposes a few fundamental requirements: First, a broad consensus on, and sustained commitment to the three pillars of nuclear verification, nuclear safety and sustainable development, regardless of geographical and ideological differences. The Agency must approach the various aspects of its mandate in an objective and balanced manner, reflecting the range of needs and priorities of its members. A process of mutual accommodation is, therefore, indispensable for the Agency to attain its goals. Second, a focused programme and clearly defined priorities: the IAEA cannot have a monopoly of all things nuclear. We need to review the programme to ensure that it is organized around our core competencies and what the Agency is best suited to do. Relationships between the IAEA, the flagship, and its counterparts, regional organizations, national governments and civil society at large, should be based on a prudent division of labour, vigorous interaction, cooperation and coordination. Third, adequate resources, both human and financial. The Agency's staff is one of its greatest assets and should continue to be motivated and adequately compensated. Maximum efficiency and prudent management are of course incumbent on the Secretariat, and I intend to pursue the Agency's traditions in this respect with vigour, including a review of the Secretariat's organizational structure and management practices. There is, however, no escaping the fact that new and additional tasks and activities such as combatting illicit trafficking require fresh and additional funds. I suggest that the criteria governments should use in judging whether to commit additional resources to the Agency is whether they, its shareholders, stand to get a good return on their investment, both in the short and long term: is the Agency a successful instrument for promoting international peace, enhancing nuclear safety, and positively contributing to the process of economic and social development? If it is, then investment in the Agency is surely a wise decision.

We face and share together the exciting task of leading the Agency into the twenty-first century. We need an Agency that continues to be responsive to changing global needs and priorities, an Agency that spearheads the human effort to maximize the use of nuclear technologies as they evolve, an Agency that is lean, focused and innovative. I am confident that, with your continuing guidance, active involvement and support, the IAEA will indeed meet and, I would hope, exceed your expectations.