6: Atomic diplomats
It is in this context of different approaches to non-proliferation that the IAEA should operate and function – with political weight and sting. This is challenging, and the many reefs in the sea require leadership. The efforts of the leader ElBaradei have thus brought him half of the Nobel Peace Prize 2005.
But it was not without riots that ElBaradei embarked on his third term as Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. After a series of confrontations during the Iraq crisis, he was far from the United States’ favorite. His downgrading of Iraq’s capacity to make nuclear weapons – a downgrade that thus proved justified – was in sharp contrast to what central forces in the Bush administration believed. The United States has also long wanted a tougher IAEA line against Iran. In September 2004, however, he was re-elected, with broad international support.
ElBaradei (born 1942) is an Egyptian career diplomat, with a doctorate in international law from New York University. He has worked at the IAEA since 1984 and has held several leadership positions in the organization. Both his time as a diplomat and his professional background have given him very good knowledge of international work and international organizations, especially in the fields of peace and security. People close to the CEO characterize him as inclusive. But he is also profiled and outspoken. In an interview ( Der Spiegel ) in February 2005, ElBaradei stated that the danger of nuclear weapons being used has never been greater . The statement was a warning about common dissemination challenges, also related to non-governmental groups, and about choices for international cooperation on non-proliferation.
His wife is a preschool teacher. The two often have discussions about what motivates states to acquire nuclear weapons. In kindergarten as elsewhere, everyone wants to play with the big boys. To really join today, one “must” have nuclear “toys”. According to ElBaradei, it is crucial to change such basic premises. How effective we are in the work of stopping the further proliferation of nuclear weapons depends on how good we are at creating a good basis for such an objective. Therefore, “a world free of nuclear weapons is the only goal we can and must pursue” – nothing more and nothing less according to the nuclear diplomat.
7: The challenges
In order to meet new and old nuclear threats, a non-proliferation agreement must be adapted to today’s challenges. Further development of safeguards is necessary as non-state actors can now both obtain, disseminate and misuse nuclear technology. Virtually all fissile material is in the nuclear states. There is an urgent need to put in place methods that ensure that the nuclear stocks’ surplus stocks can also be controlled or, preferably, destroyed. Practical solutions exist. It is now up to the political will.
According to militarynous.com, states that are currently outside the agreement framework – India, Pakistan and Israel – must also be included in the safeguards fold. Extended, voluntary schemes or a global agreement to halt the production of all fissile material for weapons purposes are possible approaches.
At the same time, it is important to establish an even sharper distinction between civilian and military use of nuclear energy. Here, the IAEA itself has a major challenge. On the one hand, the organization must prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it will facilitate peaceful nuclear research and disseminate relevant expertise and technology to its member countries. Some have argued that such a dual role is not only difficult, but impossible. While the pressure for the development of new nuclear power is increasing due to rising energy needs and consumption and global warming, several groups – also from the peace movement – have criticized the peace prize award. They are concerned about the proliferation and use of nuclear power.
8: Criticism is important
Criticism is important. The duality of the IAEA’s mandate must be highlighted. The IAEA’s control functions must also be constantly developed. But at the same time, it comes at a critical time for international non-proliferation work. The critique must therefore be nuanced and constructive.
The non-proliferation agreement has never been under greater pressure. Moreover, there is no real alternative to the IAEA’s work – a work that seems more important than ever. For almost 40 years, the Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA safeguards have contributed greatly to the fact that today we only have eight, possibly nine, nuclear powers – and no more than 20, as was the case for a while. But at a time when strong warnings are being shouted about the danger of proliferation, international work for non-proliferation is struggling – paradoxically – uphill. It is still claimed that the Non-Proliferation Treaty is obsolete, and that it does not stand up to new security threats. If this is true, the very foundation of the IAEA’s control work will disappear. This is, to put it mildly, unfortunate.
To ensure that diplomacy and negotiations – and not military power – remain the most important tool in the fight against non-proliferation, the biggest challenge is perhaps to show how relevant and important the IAEA system is, also facing new nuclear threats. As ElBaradei has repeatedly said: – The need for a political and financial reinvestment in the international non-proliferation regime is urgent.