UN Nuclear Oversight Agency and Its Chief Win Nobel Peace Prize

VIENNA, Austria, October 10, 2005 (ENS) - The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2005 to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to its Director General Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt for their work for a safer and more peaceful world. The award was announced Friday.

"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2005 is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way," the announcement said.

Upon learning that he was selected for the prestigious award, Dr. ElBaradei said he feels "gratitude, pride, and hope."

"With this recognition," he said, "the Norwegian Nobel Committee underscores the value and the relevance of the work we have been doing. It recognizes the urgency of addressing the dangers we face: nuclear proliferation, nuclear armaments, and nuclear terrorism. The award will lend prominence and impetus to the IAEA´s ultimate objective - of passing to our children a world free of nuclear weapons - and for that I am deeply grateful."

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IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei addresses the media after learning of the Nobel Peace Prize award. (Photo by Dean Calma courtesy IAEA)
The Nobel Peace Prize comes with a monetary award of 10 million Swedish kroner (US$1.29 million).

The five member Norwegian Nobel Committee is appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, the Stortinget. The Peace Prize is awarded annually at a ceremony on December 10, the day on which Alfred Nobel died in 1896. Alfred Nobel was a Swedish scientist who in 1867 patented a special type of nitroglycerine that he called dynamite. He left the bulk of his rich estate to a fund administered by the Nobel Foundation.

In his will, Alfred Nobel wrote that the Peace Prize should, among other criteria, be awarded to whoever had done most for the "abolition or reduction of standing armies."

In its application of this criterion in recent decades, Norwegian Nobel Committee said its members have "concentrated on the struggle to diminish the significance of nuclear arms in international politics, with a view to their abolition. That the world has achieved little in this respect makes active opposition to nuclear arms all the more important today."

Dr. ElBaradei said, "It has long been my belief that the road to international peace and security lies through multilateralism - the collective search by people of all racial, religious, ethnic and national backgrounds to find a common ground, based not on intimidation or rivalry but on understanding and human solidarity."

"In a practical sense," he said, "this means developing a functional system of international security that does not derive from a nuclear weapons deterrent - but rather based on addressing the security concerns of all."

He has headed the IAEA, an intergovernmental organization within the United Nations system, since December 1, 1997 and was appointed to a third four year term at the IAEA's annual general council meeting in September.

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Saudi Arabia Ambassador Omar bin Mohammed Kurdi (left) shakes hands with Dr. ElBaradei after signing his country's Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA in connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Vienna, Austria, June 16, 2005 (Photo by Dean Calma courtesy IAEA)
Dr. ElBaradei was born in Cairo, Egypt, on June 17, 1942, son of the late Mostafa ElBaradei, a lawyer and former president of the Egyptian Bar Association. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Law in 1962 at the University of Cairo, and a Doctorate in International Law at the New York University School of Law in 1974. He is also the recipient of various honorary degrees.

He began his career in the Egyptian Diplomatic Service in 1964, serving on two occasions in the Permanent Missions of Egypt to the United Nations in New York and Geneva, in charge of political, legal and arms control issues. From 1974 to 1978 he was a special assistant to the Foreign Minister of Egypt.

In 1980 Dr. ElBaradei left the Diplomatic Service and became a senior fellow in charge of the International Law Program at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. From 1981 to 1987 he was also an Adjunct Professor of International Law at the New York University School of Law.

From 1984, Dr. ElBaradei was a senior member of the IAEA Secretariat, holding a number of high-level policy positions, including that of the agency's legal adviser and, beginning in 1993, assistant director general for external relations.

The UN's top nuclear watchdog now believes that his lifelong efforts are having some effect in moving the world towards greater nuclear security.

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IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei (left), Kwaku Aning from Policy Making Organs, and IAEA General Conference President and Bolivia's Ambassador to Austria Horacio Bazoberry Otero discuss matters before the general debate on the last day of the 49th IAEA General Conference. September 30, 2005. (Photo courtesy IAEA)
"The news I have just received - that we are being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize," he said, "gives me renewed hope that, working in concert, the international community can achieve this goal."

The IAEA was founded with a simple credo, "Atoms for Peace," he explained, "meaning that nuclear science should be used safely and securely in the service of humankind - in peaceful applications related to energy production, health, water, agriculture and other aspects of development - and not for its destruction. More than anything, this award suggests that, almost five decades later, we are still focused unwaveringly on living up to that objective."

Dr. ElBaradei said the award strengthens his resolve to fulfill both aspects of the IAEA's mandate, "ensuring that the benefits of nuclear energy are distributed as broadly as possible in the service of humankind, and working towards a world free of nuclear weapons."

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said President George W. Bush welcomed the Nobel Committee’s focus on the need to halt nuclear weapons proliferation. “The committee recognized the importance of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons,” he said, adding, “that has been a high priority for this administration, and we’ve taken steps to strengthen the agency in that regard.”

As the largest financial contributor to the IAEA, the United States strongly supports its nonproliferation efforts as well as measures taken to strengthen the IAEA, McClellan said. Some of those steps include “efforts to have states sign the [IAEA’s] Additional Protocol [on Nuclear Safeguards] which would greatly expand their [inspectors] tools to detect clandestine nuclear activities,” he said.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, "The United Kingdom welcomes this recognition of the invaluable work of the IAEA, acknowledging its role, as an organization within the United Nations family, in promoting the widest possible access to the benefits of the peaceful use of nuclear energy while preventing the further proliferation of nuclear weapons."

"This is also a very great achievement for Dr El Baradei and I would like to offer him my full-hearted congratulations and that of the British Government for his expert leadership of the IAEA Secretariat over the past eight years," Straw said.

The award ceremonies take place in Oslo, Norway December 10 at the Oslo City Hall.