Greatest Nile Collar (Nile Shas) Ceremony
Your Excellency the President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I feel very proud of this great honour bestowed upon me by my country, Egypt. My special thanks go to His Excellency President Hosni Mubarak, who called me the moment I received the Nobel Peace Prize and who has today awarded me Egypt´s highest decoration. At the same time, I feel deeply grateful to all the people of my country for the genuine happiness and pride demonstrated by them at this achievement.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the peace prize to the International Atomic Energy Agency and to me in appreciation of our efforts to prevent the use of nuclear energy for military purposes and to limit its use to peaceful purposes, while ensuring the highest level of safety and security.
I believe that the awarding to us of the Nobel Peace Prize is confirmation by the world community that peace is not a single achievement, but is an environment, a process and a permanent commitment. I, therefore, consider that receiving this prize is a clear message and a strong incentive to us to continue our work with the same diligence and to maintain the same credibility. The road ahead towards a more equitable and more secure world, in which the gap between poor and rich narrows and where all are protected by an umbrella of collective security, is still a long and difficult one.
Our present world is one where twenty per cent of the population consume eighty per cent of the resources, where more than forty per cent of the people live on an income of less than two dollars a day, where more than one thousand billion dollars are spent annually on armaments while less than ten per cent of this amount is spent on all development assistance, and where eight hundred and fifty million people still go to bed on an empty stomach.
This stark contrast in the quality of life inevitably leads to inequality of opportunities and, in many cases, to despair. What is perhaps even worse is that it also often leads to extensive human rights abuses, absence of good governance and feelings of injustice and humiliation. We should, therefore, not be surprised when we see all this leading to increasing armed conflicts and all forms and types of extremism.
Furthermore, in regions where conflicts have raged for several decades without resolution, such as the Middle East, South Asia and the Korean Peninsula, we constantly witness attempts by some States to acquire nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, regrettably following the example of nuclear weapon States, as a means of overcoming the feeling of insecurity or of extending their influence.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The basic objective behind the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency back in 1957 was to use atoms for peace. Accordingly, the Agency works each day in all parts of the world so that nuclear technologies can be used to serve humanity and accelerate development in all fields of life, from power generation to agriculture, medicine, food and the management of water resources.
I would like to cite here the current programme of technical cooperation between Egypt and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is considered to be a model for successful cooperation between the Agency and its Member States, comprising as it does projects of direct benefit to national development.
Despite the tangible contributions of nuclear energy in promoting development, we all remain aware that its use for military purposes could lead to the destruction of the entire human race. Many of us hoped, following the end of the Cold War, that a new international order would emerge - a balanced, comprehensive and effective order based on the solidarity of the human family and not dependent on so-called nuclear deterrence.
Unfortunately, we are today far away from this goal. There are still eight or nine States that possess nuclear weapons, about thirty States that depend on the nuclear deterrent for their security through their membership in military alliances, and twenty-seven thousand nuclear warheads worldwide.
I am absolutely convinced that in order to prevent the destruction of humanity we have to make sure that nuclear weapons have no place in the human conscience and play no role in the security of the world. We, therefore, have to work with determination to ensure that no more States are able to acquire such weapons. At the same time, we have to work quickly to ensure that those States that do possess nuclear weapons dispose of them. We also need to begin to build an alternative common security regime that does not depend on nuclear weapons.
In the Middle East, of which we are part, it is necessary that a security dialogue commence that covers all topics relevant to security in the region, a dialogue that deals with the present security imbalance, a dialogue that proceeds in parallel with the peace process and has the objective, inter alia, of freeing the region of all weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, of limiting conventional weapons and of putting in place effective confidence-building measures. I believe that there will be no lasting peace in the Middle East without a balanced security regime to support and consolidate it and, on the other hand, no party in the region will feel secure without a comprehensive peace.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The fact that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to me at this particular time has made a profound impression on me. It comes at a critical stage when our Arab world is being viewed with fear, suspicion and a sense of superiority by some of those who consider that our current contribution to human civilization is nothing more than the spreading of backwardness and destruction. At a time when some of our sons have started losing confidence in themselves, the granting of this award to an Egyptian may constitute a modest step towards restoring balance in the way we are viewed by the world and the way we view ourselves. We indeed have instances of radicalism and intellectual stagnation, but at the same time we have moderation and intellectual enlightenment.
However, we must realize that it is our responsibility to change the way we are viewed by the world and by ourselves. This should start with an intellectual awakening based on faithfulness to oneself, and a full understanding of the unity of human knowledge and the importance of contributing to that body of knowledge. We should make full use of our God-given powers of reason in dealing with our heritage, with our present reality and with our future. Our aim must be to overcome the challenges facing our society, and to be capable of interacting on an equal footing with different civilizations, in order to add to them and learn from them.
I believe that progress of any society is based on two fundamental pillars: science and freedom. Science is the pillar of development for any human society. Science, with its various disciplines, is knowledge, without which we cannot understand ourselves, our relationship with others or the world in which we live. Freedom - be it freedom of expression, freedom of faith, freedom from fear, or freedom from want - is life itself, and without freedom no human or society can reach self-fulfilment or harness their potential.
For long periods, Egypt remained the pioneer of renaissance in the Arab world. Egyptians contributed to this renaissance in various areas such as philosophy, science, faith, politics and literature. Many still hope that Egypt will be able to take up this role again and there is an abiding, genuine belief that if Egypt prospers, the Arab nation prospers and is reinforced.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In conclusion, I am confident that, if Egypt is to lead the way towards a society based on modernization and moderation, towards a society based on tolerance and pluralism, towards a society that ensures the participation of all its factions, men and women, Moslems and Copts, in forging the future, towards a society based on science and freedom, then every Egyptian will be able to achieve as much, or indeed more, than me.
The recognition being given to me today is also a tribute to all my fellow Egyptians. I am convinced that Egypt will, in the future, be proud of more of her children, just as it was proud in the past of our illustrious forefathers, and that Egypt, the cradle of civilization, will once more regain its place at the forefront of the march of that civilization.