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IAEA Director General Hans Blix Comments on UN Reform, Sustainable Development and Nuclear Disarmament

1997/13

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Hans Blix, this week addressed a number of major issues confronting the international community.

Speaking to the Austrian League for the United Nations and the Austrian Society for Foreign Policy and International Relations in Vienna on June 17, Dr. Blix first took up the question of UN reform.

He observed that, while one could have differing opinions on how attractive it may be from the standpoint of the global community, it was almost inevitable that "world directorate"-type organs should develop like the Group of Seven industrialized states (G-7), with Russia now joining in. This reflected the absence so far of any organ in the UN system where these eight, together with other States, could participate in a way that recognized their different size, weight, contibutions and responsibilities.

Turning to the UN and security, the Director General noted that world public opinion, moved by dramatic media coverage, may demand UN interventions. "In such cases", he said, "the UN and its overburdened Security Council must carefully consider...whether an intervention might risk leading the UN into a long-term engagement. It may be more difficult to get out than get in." The issue of funding also needed to be resolved: several poor countries had not been paid for troops contributed to peace-keeping operations, and had thus helped to cover the UN's deficit. In some geographical areas, where regional security organizations existed, there was likely to be increased reliance placed on them, but this was not a solution readily available in Asia or the Middle East.

Turning to sustainable development matters, the Director General, noting the upcoming special UN General Assembly this month, said nuclear techniques could be of help in tackling the strain put on the food, water, health care and energy resources of the planet by its burgeoning population. In the energy field, he said "people who live in opulence in rich countries can perhaps allow themselves to preach zero growth policies or reduced use of electricity. People in poor countries and also many poor people in rich countries will not do that." He added that the frequently proffered advice to increase energy efficiency, use renewables like solar, wind and biomass, and apply (expensive) modern technical means to reduce pollution from fossil fuels was inadequate. Nuclear power was not a panacea, but it was already cutting total carbon dioxide emissions, compared to the same volume of electricity production by coal, by 9 percent. Were nuclear to be phased out, experience showed that what happened was even more fossil fuels were burned.

Turning lastly to nuclear disarmament, the Director General said something of a "nuclear disarmament race" had developed between the United States and Russia: weapons were being dismantled at such a pace that management and storage of freed plutonium and highly enriched uranium were posing problems. The Agency was gearing up to tackle here a new verification challenge, going beyond its traditional inspection role, in bringing about the first international verification of nuclear disarmament and helping to prevent any re-use of such material for weapon purposes.

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Last update: 29 Nov 2019

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