Mohamed ElBaradei doesn’t want to just get rid of nuclear weaponry.
He wants to make it something as unthinkable as slavery and genocide and other historical anomalies.
In fact, he hopes that soon the only nuclear weapons remaining will be relics in museums, remnants for future generations of unimaginable destruction narrowly averted.
Born June 17, 1942 in Egypt, ElBaradei received a bachelor’s degree in law at the University of Cairo in 1962, and later a doctorate in International Law from the New York School of Law in 1974. During his collegiate years he also joined the foreign ministry, serving as the Permanent Missions of Egypt to the United Nations in New York and Geneva. The position, which stationed him in Geneva, put him in charge of legal, political, and arms control issues.
Brilliant and energetic, ElBaradei quickly climbed the ranks at the United Nations. In 1984 he became a senior fellow, heading up the international law program at the UN Institute for Training and Research. During this time and for the following few years, he was also an adjunct professor of international law at New York University School of Law.
In 1987 ElBaradei became the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, an inter-governmental organization sponsored by the United Nations. It is in this facet of his career that he is perhaps best known for, and within which, he finds the most personal satisfaction.
Being director to such a powerful international entity dealing with such a volatile subject matter comes with its share of sacrifice and risk.
ElBaradei has had to overcome various controversies, including one attempt at ousting him from this position. He has also put life and limb on the line by traveling extensively throughout politically precarious regions including Libya, North Korea, and throughout the Middle East in his fervent attempts to rid the world of nuclear weaponry.
Nevertheless, ElBaradei remains realistic and in-tune with international security needs. He is well aware that countries continue to be concerned about their national security, and hence, view these weapons as potential threat deterrents, terrorism deterrents, or as a way to feel on-par security-wise with other nations. He says that today eight or nine countries still possess nuclear weapons, and that there are still 27,000 warheads in existence. He hopes to help rid nations of this type of weaponry by promoting alternative means of security:
“We need to delegitimize the nuclear weapon, and by de-legitimizing... meaning trying to develop a different system of security that does not depend on nuclear deterrence."
Controversy and personal risk aside, ElBaradei’s work has helped exponentially in the reduction of nuclear weaponry and likewise, in international peacekeeping and long-term global safety. In fact, his peacekeeping efforts have become so widely recognized that in 2005 he and the International Atomic Energy Agency were jointly awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for his “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."
As a further testament to his character, ElBaradei donated his half of the 1.3 million dollar Nobel Prize winnings to the building of orphanages in Cairo. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) winnings are also going to an excellent cause, being spent to train scientists in developing nations to use nuclear technology in ways that can instead benefit humanity, such as in the battle against cancer.
|The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, 1945, rose some 18 kilometers (11 mi) above the hypocenter.|
This stance is particularly poignant given that nuclear energy was first intended for the benefit of humanity, not for the creation of potentially catastrophic weaponry. Marie Curie, who herself received two Nobel Prizes, was credited for her tireless work on radioactivity. Her relentless research which eventually poisoned her, resulted in today's cancer treatments, as well as in modern amenities like computers – but also unfortunately dubbed her the mother of the atomic bomb.
Accordingly, with ElBaradei's work and the work of the IAEA, the potential benefits of nuclear technology can once again shine through instead of the negative connotations understandably currently associated with it. More importantly, though, when ElBaradei's work is done, the world can rest assured in the knowledge that weapons that have the potential to destroy entire nations, if not the entire planet, are no longer a threat to humanity, but rather, an unimaginable part of history.