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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN nuclear chief's recipe for safer world: development not weapons

26 May 2006 As the world reaches a fork in the road over nuclear weapons, it is up to the new generation to develop an alternative system of collective security based not on the build-up of armaments but on addressing root causes of insecurity ranging from poverty and repression to unresolved conflicts, according to the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to develop this alternative system of collective security. The good news is that, as tough as it may sound, this is not ‘Mission Impossible,’” Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei told the graduating class at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington yesterday.

“You are equipped with the right skills and the broad outlook to take on such a challenge,” he added, referring to the need to re-arrange global priorities away from spending so much on weapons and so little on development aid, reform of the UN Security Council, and enhance dialogue.

“In the 1960s, (counter-culture guru) Timothy Leary coined the famous phrase: ‘Turn On; Tune In; Drop Out’ – calling on the younger generation to disengage from society and seek enlightenment through psychedelic drugs,” he told the new graduates.

“I would call on you to do exactly the opposite, to engage and become part of the solution - in other words, ‘Turn Back; Tune In; Reach Out.’ Turn Back from an approach to security that relies on nuclear deterrence. Tune In to the security needs of your fellow human beings around the globe. And Reach Out to make those needs your own, so that the dream of peace and security can finally become a reality.”

The task at hand will require “creative diplomacy, innovative technology and above all leadership,” he said, adding that he could not lay out the exact nature of such an alternative system.

But outlining features essential to its success, he noted that in 2004, the nations of the world spent over $1 trillion on weapons, and less than 10 per cent of that amount – a mere $80 billion – on official development assistance.

Yet experts stress that an extra $65 billion per year could cut world hunger in half, put programmes in place for clean water worldwide, enable reproductive health care for women everywhere, eradicate illiteracy, and provide immunization for every child.

As another example, Mr. ElBaradei noted that the average American has 1,800 watts of electric power at his or her disposal powering everything from air conditioners to iPods. By contrast, an average Nigerian has to make do with only enough power for a single 8-watt light bulb.

“If we can focus on giving our less fortunate neighbours the opportunity to raise their living standards - the chance to compete, to regain their sense of dignity and self-respect - the likelihood of conflict will immediately begin to drop,” he declared.

Institutions capable of maintaining international peace and stability will be vital to any new system and the UN Security Council, which now holds this responsibility, must be representative of the global community and structured in a way that makes it agile in its responses to crises with the resources needed to carry out its mission.

“We should not forget, however, that at the end of the day, international institutions are constellations of states, and states are made up of people who should be the focus and the drivers of any system of security,” he said.

“Every one of you can make a difference,” he concluded. “The future rests in your hands.”

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