Fletcher graduation

ElBaradei urges multilateral action to solve global problems

At a time when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been publicly critical of the Bush administration for its refusal to let U.N. weapons inspectors back into Iraq, Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, the IAEA's director general, called for greater "interdependence" on crucial global issues, including nuclear weapons.

In a commencement speech at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy on May 18 titled "Security in an Interdependent World," ElBaradei said that interdependence has become "the key feature of our modern world" and argued that the problems of global warming, Internet communication, the global economy, the war on terrorism and even the outbreak of SARS require a multilateral approach.

Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei © Ed Malitsky

Established as an autonomous organization under the United Nations in 1957, the IAEA serves as the world's foremost intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical cooperation on nuclear technology. Since 1991 and until the second war in Iraq, the IAEA has carried out inspections in Iraq pursuant to U.N. Security Council resolutions, which give it a mandate to uncover and dismantle Iraq's clandestine nuclear program and develop and implement an ongoing monitoring and verification plan.

Nuclear currency
Noting that nations have remained "disconnected" on important issues, ElBaradei said, "We think globally in terms of trade, but we continue to think locally in terms of violent conflicts. We cherish our connectivity on the web, but our solidarity is less visible in matters of extreme poverty and repression." He said that only when such a "mindset" is changed in recognition that "human security is global and interdependent" would the world achieve peace and justice.

ElBaradei said that the vaunted "new world order" after the end of the Cold War has not been achieved and decried the new dangers that have replaced superpower rivalries, including ethnic conflicts, global terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which has emerged as "the currency of ultimate power."

"Several thousands of nuclear weapons continue to exist, and more countries—at least eight or nine by the last count—are in possession of nuclear weapons, with others suspected of working to acquire them," he said. "Still other countries have opted for the poor man's alternative by pursuing the acquisition of chemical and biological weapons. And in the aftermath of September 11, the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has gained a new dimension: the prospect of sub-national terrorist groups seeking to acquire and use these weapons.

"Must we conclude that the pre-emptive use of force to smother perceived threats to security is the new norm and model to pursue?" he asked. "Must we conclude that it is futile to rely on a collective, rule-based system of peace and security? I certainly hope not. But reliance on a system of collective security in which international law is the organizing principle will require bold thinking, a willingness to work together and sustained effort—and it will require states and societies to see, think and act multilaterally."

While circumspect during his speech, ElBaradei's frustration over the United States' refusal to let U.N. inspectors back into Iraq surfaced during a luncheon in his honor after his commencement address. "After the last year," he said, "we have been a lonely voice preaching internationalism and common sense. To be here with people who share the same values is a wonderful experience."