Presentation: ElBaradei 20 July 2009

flickr_8007009274_27f00b18c5_k_IAEA Imagebank

On 20 July, Dr ElBaradei, retiring Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spoke to an audience at Jan Smuts House on the future of a new global security system.

Thank you very much Elizabeth. It is an honour for me to come again to your institute, to this centre of excellence for research on Africa and it is also my fortune to be here during your celebration of your 75th anniversary.

I thought today I should try to reflect with you on the concept of security,  where we are and  how we can move forward to have this elusive goal of humanity, the right of everyone of us to live in peace and security.

Security obviously has different meanings.  For some people security means basic human needs, food, health, care, and shelter, in other words freedom from want.  For others it is looking for freedom of speech, freedom of worship or freedom from fear.  These are different manifestations of security depending on different national societies.  For the international community, for states,  freedom and security have different meanings.  For some, it is the achievement of economic and military parity or superiority.  For others it is the projection of power and influence.  I would argue, looking at where we are, that our system of security both on the national level and at an international level has become in many ways dysfunctional.  We have many new challenges that we are not prepared to address or equipped to address. We don’t really have the institutions, both national and international,  that are able to cope with both existing and new challenges.

What are the causes of insecurity on both the international and national level?  The first in my mind is the persistent inequity in the global distribution of wealth.  We still have 20% of the world population that consumes 80% of its resources.  We have 1% of the world owning 40% of the world assets and 50% of the world population owns  less than 1%  of the world’s assets.  We have 2 out of 5 people continuing to live under $2 per day.  According to  UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) figures last month,  for the first time in human history over 1 billion people around the world, 1 out of 6, go to bed hungry every day.

These are obviously horrifying figures when one thinks about it from an ethical point of view, but also from a security point of view and I will come to that later.  It is not that we don’t have the resources to deal with these issues.  Last year the global military spending was around $1.5 trillion according to SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The ODA, Official Development Assistance, of all OECD countries was $120-billion, less than 8% of what we spend on military hardware. All the UN peacekeeping operations in the  current year cost $7-billion.  In other words, the world will spend 200 times more on weapons of war than it does on peacekeeping.

People would look at these numbers maybe from an ethical point of view. I would also look at it from a security point of view, because where I am sitting at IAEA, I can see clearly the link between poverty, lack of good governance, repression, a sense of humiliation and marginalization, civil war, interstate wars, and in areas where you have endemic conflict – links between these factors and  the effort to do research for nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.

When we talk about uneven distribution of wealth, when we talk about poverty, when we talk about our fellow human beings, the 1/6th of humanity that go to bed hungry, we are really talking also in a cynical way about our own security.

Many of you are aware that in the last decade 5-million people have lost their lives in Congo during the civil war and other atrocities.  In 1994, around 1-million people lost their lives in 4 months in Rwanda.   In Darfur, which is still ongoing, we have around 300,000  people who have lost their lives and a few millions that have been displaced.

In Iraq we have over 1-million people who lost their lives, we have 3-million people who got maimed, and we have 4-million people who got displaced internally or externally.  So out of every 3 Iraqis, one person got his life pulverized.

At the same time, we don’t even count these people.  We don’t have a proper record of how many people died in Darfur, Congo or Iraq.  Yet we will know, exactly, the number of soldiers who died in Iraq, the number of soldiers who died in Afghanistan, the name, the fiancée, the family pictures. That is not simply a question  to reflect on.  We should also consider the message it sends  to the rest of the world, the message you are sending to people in the south in particular – that   we don’t really care about you.  And then we should not be surprised when they react sometimes the way that they react.  If you don’t care about me, why should I care about you?

In Darfur, for example, for 18 months the UN have helplessly searched for 18 helicopters and 19,000 troops to be deployed to stop or at least control this massacre that is taking place there.  Until today they were not able to get one single helicopter, a year and a half after every appeal by the UN, by the Secretary General, by the Security Council.  Right now we are at the same time, for example, deploying around 61,000 troops  in Afghanistan, this is of course because Afghanistan is of  geo-political interest.

Ten days ago at a NATO conference, I asked a question:  is our global security system going to be based on  narrow geo-political interests or is it going to be a global system based on human solidarity and the value of human life?  Because I cannot see or understand why, for example, NATO or any other country that are able to provide troops and helicopter support structures, are providing zero to Darfur while they are providing 61,000 troops  to Afghanistan.

We have  festering conflicts,  conflicts that have been going on for almost  100 years, or at least 5 or 6 decades, from the Korean  conflict to the Palestinian conflict to the Kashmir conflict. These  endemic conflicts  obviously they don’t improve with time.  No conflict does improve with time.  It continues to get from bad to worse. We are apparently unable to find a mechanism in institutions to resolve these issues.

I say these things because I just want to impress on you that if we need to address security, either national security or global security we cannot just talk about the symptoms, but we have to address the causes.  And the causes start with poverty, endemic conflicts, lack of adequate institutions – these are issues that we have to address.  We talk a lot, for example about reforming the UN, yet all our talk so far has been about who is going to be added or included in the Security Council as permanent members.  That is not the issue.  The issue to me is how you get the Security Council to function in a systematic way.  How the Security Council is going to work in a predictable way, where everybody feels that they can find refuge in the Security Council.  That is not the case today.

If I look at the Security Council record in many cases that have to do with our work, the proliferation of nuclear weapons,  it is on–again, off-again.  In certain cases they adopted sanctions, and in other cases they did not even adopt a resolution.  When we reported that North Korea had withdrawn from the NPT in 1993, there was not even a Security Council resolution.  In other cases there were sanctions, in some cases sanctions that really hurt the most vulnerable and empowered the authoritarian regimes in power, as in the case of Yugoslavia, as in the case of Iraq.  They were not really  remedies, but added to the confrontation. They added to the suffering of innocent civilians who could not really do much to change the policies of these dictators or  regimes.

If I come and talk to you about nuclear arms control and non-proliferation, I have first to talk about the drivers of insecurity.  And the drivers of insecurity are a sense of inequity, unfairness, both with the national systems and with the international system.  We have still many regimes that are repressing the people.  We have still many people, as I mentioned, that cannot have any sense of hope for a future.  We have institutions that have not been adjusted since 1945 to deal with the kind of threats that did not exist in the past, ranging from nuclear terrorism to climate change to cyber security.  –  these are all new challenges. All are challenges that are global in nature, all are  challenges that cannot be resolved by any one country, all are challenges that we do not have an institution  adapted to deal with  in an effective and profound manner.

That is the kind of environment that we have.  In the international system we still have a global security system that relies on nuclear weapons. There is no denying that if you have nuclear weapons, this  brings  a sense of power, prestige, and  security – an insurance policy, as I call it.  Countries were supposed to move to  nuclear disarmament since 1970 under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  We have now  192 member states; it is the most subscribed to international agreement after the UN Charter.  And under that treaty, which came into force in 1970, the five weapon states were committed to move to nuclear disarmament and the non-nuclear weapon states committed themselves not to develop nuclear weapons but  to have access to peaceful nuclear technology.

Now 37 years later – I think it entered into force in 1972 –  after the non-proliferation treaty we still have 27,000 warheads in existence.  That is 20 years after the Cold War.  We have instead of 5 weapon states, 9 weapon nuclear states.  We still have nuclear weapons deployed at the so-called hair-trigger alert, which gives the leader of US or Russia something like 30 minutes or an hour  to respond to a perceived or reported nuclear attack, which could be the result of a computer error,  unauthorized use or any other reason. We could wake up in the morning and find that half our world is gone as the result of unauthorized use or a computer error.

To me it is insanity that, 20 years after the end of the cold war, we have not adjusted at least to the new reality and sent  the right message to the rest of the world, that our security should not be rooted in nuclear weapons, particularly that we now have a regime that preaches a security system that does not rely on nuclear weapons.  But the nuclear weapon states, while calling on all non-nuclear weapon states to comply fully with their obligation, most of them,if not all, continue to modernize their nuclear weapons.  That regime I have called unsustainable for at least the last 12 years.  Since I have been  Director General I have come to realize that in the long run you cannot sustain a regime that is not based on fairness or equity.  Any regime that is not rooted in equity is not sustainable; you have the best example here in South Africa.

Recently however, we started to get some glimmer of hope.  Barack Obama and Alexander Medvedev committed themselves to move to  nuclear disarmament through concrete measures.   I would say it is about time that the world has  come to that realization and   I think the rest of the world is now waiting to see the deliverables, to see the measures, starting with the a comprehensive test ban  treaty and a so-called fissile material  cut off treaty that will prohibit the production of nuclear material for nuclear weapons.   I hope we will see a drastic reduction in the arsenals of the two weapon states, hopefully to be followed by the other seven weapon states.

So there is a lot to be done in the next few years and hopefully we will see concrete results. The world has become very cynical on the issue of nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament.  Frankly we cannot wait much longer because the major risk that we are facing today is the prospect of an extremist group getting hold of nuclear weapons, because if they were to have a nuclear weapon they will simply use it.

The concept of deterrence  that  has kept the peace since the second world war is irrelevant to an extremist group. I think that very reason  has led  people who have come from the heart of the cold war, people like Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Sam Nunn, and Bill Perry, to come at a late  stage in life to preach nuclear disarmament.  These were the people who were the architects of nuclear deterrence  and the Cold War balance of power. They are the ones who are now the most ardent supporters of nuclear disarmament and a world free from nuclear weapons.

Last February I was at the Munich Security Conference, sitting in a panel with Henry Kissinger, and I was telling Elizabeth that he was still at 85 quite alert and articulate. Both of us were preaching nuclear disarmament and I thought the world must have changed.  I hope that this is the case. George Shultz came to the Agency in Vienna a couple of months ago. He is 88, and he came precisely to see what he can do to move nuclear disarmament forward.

I thought that this is not really out of just idealism; it is out of extreme realism. They have come to realize that a regime that is based on nuclear deterrence, nuclear weapons, is no longer sustainable and it would lead to our self destruction, simply because of the prospect of nuclear terrorism.

Nuclear terrorism is a new phenomenon recently.  Nuclear technology is now out of the tube as we have seen in the uncovering of a covert network.  which is not really one person, or one group of people, but was  very sophisticated group of companies and individuals,  spreading over 30 countries, from Switzerland to South Africa, to Turkey to Germany, everywhere.  So the technology is out of the tube.  We have also seen how sophisticated extremist groups are after 9/11.  If you put these two together, then you have to understand the risk that we are facing. We know that extremist groups have been interested in acquiring weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons.

That is an issue that has led many  world leaders and many of the world thinkers to realize that  if we are to preserve our humanity and civilization, we have to act in different way.  We have to construct a security system that does not depend on nuclear weapons.

That is where we are today, but we still have a lot of challenges.  I have five questions that I can put to you.

We continue to preach non-proliferation while virtually all nuclear weapon states until today continue to modernize their nuclear weapons and continue to put  emphasis in their strategic doctrines on nuclear weapons.  That, as I mentioned, is hopefully changing now with the Prague statement of Obama and his agreement with Medvedev to move towards nuclear disarmament.

The second question is how we can ensure that we do not face a new wave of proliferation through the spread of technology.  We have seen how the world is reacting to the Iranian  enrichment programme.  Having an enrichment programme or a reprocessing programme producing plutonium or highly enriched uranium is kosher under the non-proliferation treaty.  Yet if they  have that technology, we know that a country can develop a nuclear weapon in a matter of weeks, if they have the nuclear material that is required.  It is true that it can be used for peaceful purpose, but we also know the dark side of that, if it is misused.  That is why I, and many others, have been proposing the multi-nationalization of the fuel cycle, meaning that no one country should have its hands on an enrichment factory or a reprocessing factory, but that  the whole fuel cycle has to be based on a regional  or multi-national approach –  owned and managed by a number of countries.

This obviously has to be part of the discussion of disarmament.  It has to be equitable, it has to be universal.   There is a lot of concern, maybe I should say fear, by some of the non nuclear weapon states that this yet again is tightening the screws around them, while the weapon states continue to run free. But that is not how I see it.  I see it as part of a grand package.  I see it as part of the arms control negotiation.  I see it as part of the possible negotiation of a treaty that bans the production of nuclear material for weapons purpose and multi-nationalization of the fuel cycle.

Interestingly.  the proposal was put on the table at the UN 60 years ago –  at the very beginning of the nuclear age.  It was a proposal to have the whole multi-national cycle under international control.  It did not work that time because of disagreement between Russia and the US and others.  But maybe they are coming around  again to realize that we are at a stage that we can’t afford to have that margin of security, which is too thin.  Every country should have the right to have its fuel cycle, every country should have the right to use fully nuclear energy. But there is no reason why we cannot agree, for our own protection, all of us, to have a multi-national approach  to the fuel cycle.

There are a lot of proposals on the table, including a fuel bank to be managed by the Agency but there is still a lot of concern, a lot of questions to be answered. In my view this will only move when we see  movement on  nuclear disarmament –  concrete actions.

The third question is how we ensure in the meantime that nuclear materials do not fall into the wrong hands.  We still see a lot of illicit trafficking in nuclear material and radio active sources.  Luckily, all the cases that have been reported to us, are small quantities that cannot really go into a nuclear weapon or  allow the making of a nuclear weapon. For the last ten years or so, we have seen over 1,500 cases of illicit trafficking or other unauthorised activities.  From  June last year until June this year,  243 incidents of illicit trafficking have been reported.  That is very scary, that is to me the tip of the iceberg.    We know these are  not all the cases because, in many cases  materials were found that had not been reported missing. And  some material was reported missing which was never found.  This tells us that we do not see the full picture.

There is still a lot of work to do for physical protection of nuclear material and radioactive sources.   There is still material that is vulnerable, there are still facilities that are vulnerable, and we need to do our utmost to ensure at least that all nuclear material, the powerful radioactive sources, nuclear facilities are made safe to the so-called gold standard.  We have to make sure that they are absolutely guaranteed against theft or misuse.  In parallel with the process of arms control, we should make sure that we also have an effective, robust verification regime.

That is not the case today.  For a robust verification regime, for an effective verification regime, we need state of the art technology and we need legal authority. In both cases the Agency is still wanting.  We are still much in need of resources; we do not have the adequate resources to ensure that we have  state-of-the-art labs for environmental sampling.

We have continued to rely on a number of countries without us being able to validate the result. That  obviously does not give us the required independence.  We still do not have the resources to buy sufficient satellite imagery.  These are the resources that we use now, it is primarily satellite imagery and environmental sampling to detect possible undeclared activities.  We are still very short on these technologies and very dependent on some of the member states.  That is something that I have been saying for a number of years.

Right now, in fact, we are in the middle of a budget discussion.  All of you know, both at national and international level, what a budget discussion means. We have a wide range of views, from the US arguing that the Agency’s budget should be doubled in the next four years, to France and Germany saying that we should continue with a zero growth budget .  Well there is obviously something wrong somewhere.  I continue of course to say that it is the member states’ prerogative to decide the level of the budget, but it is my responsibility to tell them how much the money can buy. I will not be able to say that we are able to do what the international community thinks we are doing, if we do not have the resources to do it.  If we  do not get the money that is required, I will say publicly –  and this is a matter of my sense of responsibility to the job If we are not able to do either credible verification or credible safety or security, or whatever.  That is  the situation  we are in right now. It  is a situation that is obviously  very disconcerting, because when you see, every day,  people talking about nuclear terrorism or proliferation as the number one security threat, and that does not trickle down into resources, then something is wrong in the way that the system works.

We  still have insufficient  legal authority and that is again partly, I think, a sense of cynicism on the part of the non-nuclear weapon states.  After the Iraq debacle in 1991, when we discovered that Iraq developed a clandestine nuclear weapon programme, we have realized that to do a credible job we need to have the legal authority, not only to verify declared activities but to have the  means to detect possible undeclared activities.  Proliferators  usually do not go through diversion from declared activities, they build  completely clandestine undeclared activities. For that we need the legal authority to get more information, to go to additional locations and, of course, the technologies I mentioned to see through satellites  new buildings and new facilities, to go and detect through environmental sampling whether there has been undeclared enrichment or undeclared reprocessing; this is a new system of verification.

We know we are facing a moving target, but we know also that we do not have either the legal authority or the resources to enable us in confidence to say that we have a  robust, effective verification system.  That is very important, because I saw recently again, for example, Prime Minister Brown saying “we are ready to disarm but  we need to make sure that there is an effective verification system to guard against possible cheats.”  It is obviously a chicken and  egg situation; the non-nuclear weapon states are saying, why should we accept additional obligations if the nuclear weapon states are not disarming and the nuclear weapon states are saying, how could we disarm if we are not sure that the other  guys will not cheat.  My answer to that is that we need to move in parallel.   We need both. As we move through nuclear disarmament, we need to move to strengthen the verification regime.  We still have 90 countries that have not adhered to the additional protocol which I mentioned, developed in 1997 after the Iraq discovery.

The fifth question is how we can create an effective international compliance system.   We do not have the ability to force compliance, either in Korea or  in Iraq.  The Security Council  is, under our statute, the mechanism to ensure compliance.  So far, I think, there is a lot that is desired from the Security Council in making sure that it is perceived in all cases to be predictable, to be effective in ensuring compliance.  In some cases it has  been,  in some others, it has not.  In some cases, as I said, they have not even adopted resolutions.  In some other cases they adopted measures that in my view were counter productive by hurting the people who were not meant to be targeted,  the elderly, the young, and the innocent civilians.  We need again to look at how the compliance mechanism is working.  We are again at somewhat of a crossroads.

Ten days ago, I was invited to a NATO meeting in Brussels where they are discussing modernization of their Strategic Concept.  I was, frankly, stunned to read this Strategic Concept which was adopted in 1999, because on more than 5 or 6 occasions in that concept there is clear glorification of nuclear weapons.  It says that nuclear weapons are  the supreme guarantee of our security; that no conventional weapons are adequate to provide effective deterrence, that nuclear weapons are essential to preserve peace and to prevent any kind of war.  I read that and I told them at that meeting that  you are sending absolutely the wrong message.  You definitely need to  reduce  your reliance on nuclear weapons and make it clear that you are going to move out of nuclear weapons in accordance  with the commitment of at least the US and Russia and, hopefully, some of the other weapon states.  Otherwise, as I again mentioned to them, you will have a system of security for the rich and famous, which is a superior system of security, for the  28 members of NATO.   Around 38 countries,– I counted in fact – , either are  weapon states or rely on the nuclear umbrella. They have a superior system of security and the rest of world is supposed to live under an inferior system of security.  Obviously, aside  from the unfairness or the perceived unfairness, it is not sustainable, because as I mentioned, the technology is out of the tube, the knowledge is out, the hardware is out.  If  that were to continue, you will get more and more, or a new wave of proliferators and ultimately you will get nuclear weapons in the hands of the extremist groups.

This is where we are. We are at a crossroads.  If we are to save ourselves, in my view, from self destruction, we have to start thinking about building a new security system; a security system that is not based on nuclear weapons.  We need a security system that is based on empowering international institutions.  We really have to overhaul all our international institutions, because we need institutions that are focused on prevention, that are focused on finding a solution to conflicts before they become endemic. We must  have the required peacekeeping ability.  As I mentioned, if we spend 200 times more money on armaments than on peacekeeping then there is something wrong with the way that we manage our security.  We need a security system that address the drivers of insecurity, which include,  as I said, poverty, and lack of good governance.  I always keep on saying that poverty to me is the most lethal weapon of mass destruction,  not poverty per se, but the implications of poverty.

I maybe need to conclude with some sign of hope. When I saw, again lately, Barack Obama underscore the link between poverty and disarmament, then I realized that at least we are about to move on the right track.  But it is not a question of one person; it is not a question of one nation, it is a question of a collective security system, a collective and international solidarity.  Civil society has never been much involved in issues of security.  They have been involved in questions of trade, climate change, environment, but always thought that security issues are too complicated and should be left to governments.  Governments have not really served us well so far and we need, I think, civil society to get involved, because it has to do with our very survival.   In certain cases, such as  the landmine treaty, there  was an initiative of civil society opposed by many governments but finally we got it through.  The world’s citizens realized that we cannot live with landmines, for example, and  we need to ban them  and they were banned. The same with nuclear weapons.  I think when governments hear it loud and clear from the people that this is not the system of security we want to live under, that is not the system of security that we would like to leave to the next generation, then we will see change. The change is to look for a system of security that is not really based on us versus them, it is not based on nationality, language, borders, but it is based in my view on human security and human solidarity.  It is the only way, in my view, a system of security would be sustainable.   When the 6 billion people who live on this earth, when every one of them has  the right to live in dignity, peace, and freedom, then  I think we will have peace and security.

I yesterday went to the Freedom park and  the spirit of Ubuntu was explained to me. I was struck that this common sense approach to life has been understood in Africa, thousands of years ago. “I am  because we are.” And that, I thought, was the most beautiful way of expressing  human solidarity, the wonders of the human family. Yes, we have differences, but the differences are dwarfed by what we share  together in terms of common destiny, in terms of the essence of the human spirit.  That is what we have to work for, as human beings, as citizens.  We should not continue to look at it in terms of “this is our country against the other country,” “we are the north versus the south,” “we are the east versus the west,” “we are the rich versus the poor,” “we are the black versus the white;”  you have seen it, that is a bridge to nowhere.  The only bridge to sustain the human family is a realization, a change of mindset, to understand that we are going to succeed together in this so-called globalized world, or we are going to fail together, or separately, one after the other.  At the end it is a question of restoring our moral compass, restoring a moral compass that  all of us can live by.

Then finally we will not need to speak about nuclear weapons or chemical weapons, we just need to talk about how we can help each other.  How we can have a decent life, how we can have a clean environment, how we can have balanced trade, how we can make sure that we address HIV/Aids vaccine, how we can have proper communication.  How we can have tolerance, how we can have democracy, how we can have fairness and justice. These are the things that we should be talking about. Once we start talking about that, then automatically, in my view, we will have a system of peace and security that is sustainable.

Thank you