A Nobel Laureate and a Seasoned Diplomat
The 70–year–old Egyptian has been the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency for around 12 years, and has done so perfectly well in his position that he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize and a Golden Dove Prize for Peace for his efforts in using nuclear research for the benefit of mankind.
Mohamed ElBaradei has over five decades of experience in being a diplomat, politician, and peace advocate. When he was working in the External Affairs Ministry of Egypt, he worked tirelessly to promote peace between his country and its neighbors, as well as to improve the economic, political, and social relations between his country and the other members of the United Nations.
He is also a statesman and a patriot, and was a key figure in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution that removed President Mubarak from 30 years of ruling over Egypt. Afterwards, Mohamed became a leading voice in rebuilding the political structure in Egypt.
Mohamed’s dedication to his country is unrivalled by those working with him in public service. From the time he entered public service, Mohamed has constantly pursued peace and freedom for his country, engaging in talks with various factions for a united and peaceful Egypt.
Mohamed ElBaradei is one of the five children of Mostafa ElBaradei, one of Egypt’s most prominent lawyers and a former president of the Egyptian National Bar Association, and of Aida Gehazi. He was born in Cairo in 1942, during the Second World War. Although Egypt was one of the battlefronts during the war, Mostafa and Aida, along with their children, were able to survive the war and continue to have a normal life.
Mostafa, Mohamed’s father, supported a free Egypt, and often clashed ideals with the government at that time, the most notable during the reign of Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1956. He would also often publish articles about having a free press as well as an independent judiciary, which put him in the list of people that the government back then found threatening.
It was through Mostafa’s nurturing that Mohamed learned about the importance of democracy and freedom, compassion for others, and a peaceful society. Mohamed often told in some of his interviews how he always saw his father as his role model, and how the love of his parents further nurtured him into becoming the man of peace and compassion that he has come to be known.
At a young age, Mohamed already exhibited traits of leadership and unique intelligence among the children of his age. He stood out in class, often being a favourite for his amazing intellect and charming personality. His classmates and teachers were fond of him. One of his kindergarten’s teachers said, “I hope he has a bright future." Referring to Mohamed, his teacher said, “I can tell he is brilliant.” Aside from excelling in academics, the young Mohamed also loved sports. He practiced squash from a young age, and went on to win a national tournament in that sport.
Dreams of becoming a Lawyer
As Mohamed grew older, he was faced with the realities of life in Egypt. Witnessing the hardships of the people developed a conviction in him to do something about it. Because of this, Mohamed decided to follow his father’s footsteps and become a lawyer himself. This decision was further fuelled by the persecutions that his father received during that time because of his stand for democracy and freedom.
Mohamed entered Cairo University to study law, becoming one of the school’s top students. In 1962, Mohamed graduated from the university and received his bachelor’s degree in law. His teachers at the university were astonished at how passionate Mohamed was in his studies, which caused him to always excel at exams and other activities. He also made a lot of friends in college, although his democratic views were sometimes met with hostility.
Working for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
In 1964, at age 22 and two years after his graduation, Mohamed began his diplomatic career by joining the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he was assigned to the Permanent Missions of Egypt to the United Nation. His work there put Mohamed in charge of political, legal, and arms-control issues.
During his time in the ministry, Mohamed engaged in numerous activities and programmes set by many of the international and regional organizations such as the United Nations General Assembly, the Conference on Disarmament, the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Security Council, the League of Arab States, the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, the Organization of African Unity, and the Commission on Human Rights.
Mohamed’s work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed the fruits of his early diplomatic training. Whether be it in his dealings with journalists, or taking part in a country’s nuclear program, Mohamed was always a diplomat in nature, which greatly helped in the success of his missions. In fact, he was sent two times to foreign countries as the representative of Egypt’s United Nations missions—the first time in Geneva, Switzerland, where he earned a master’s degree in international law at the Graduate Institute of International Studies; and the other in New York City, USA, where Mohamed further pursued his law career and earned his doctorate degree in international law at New York University in 1974. It was also in New York where he first encountered the professional basketball New York Knicks (then known as Knickerbockers), of which Mohamed became a lifelong fan.
After his graduation in 1974, Mohamed was appointed as a special assistant to the Egyptian Foreign Minister, holding the position for the next four years. As a special assistant, Mohamed accompanied the foreign minister and engaged in various presidential and ministerial delegations that went out to other countries.
The Camp David Contribution
Mohamed’s prowess in diplomatic talks was further shown when he became part of the delegation that went to Camp David in 1978 and did negotiations that led to the formation of peace accords with Israel and effectively concluded the disengagement agreements between the two nations.
Widely recognized as one of the excellent negotiators of the country, Mohamed kept being humble in spite of the popularity and success. This was evident in many of the interviews done with him, where he would always attribute his success to the principles that his father taught him.
In 1980, Mohamed, being well-known as a youthful star of the international diplomatic corps, left the diplomatic service and joined the United Nations as a senior fellow in charge of the International Law Program at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. His work there enabled him to return to New York City, where he was inducted as an Adjunct Professor of International Law by the New York University School of Law. He stayed in this post for six years, from 1981 to 1987.
Joining the International Atomic Energy Agency Secretariat
Mohamed’s diplomatic career exposed him to a wide variety of international issues, becoming familiar with many international organizations’ processes, more specifically in the areas of international peace, security, and development. His time in NYU further opened Mohamed’s mind to a broader concepts of peace, freedom, and security, and enabled him to constantly improve and develop his diplomatic skills. Mohamed has also learned multiple languages which helped him in negotiations. He knows and speaks Arabic, English, French, and “enough” German “to get by, at least in Vienna.”
In 1984, he was appointed as a senior staff member of the International Atomic Energy Agency Secretariat, becoming its legal adviser. During his term as a legal adviser, Mohamed demonstrated his leadership abilities by holding several policy posts in the organization, enabling him to go further in his career. In 1993, Mohamed became the Assistant Director General for External Relations for the IAEA, a post he held until 1997 when he was elected to become the Director–General of the organization.
Mohamed’s election to Director–General did not come quite easy. He was neither supported by Hans Blix, the previous Director–General, nor by his own country’s government. However, the outstanding support of the majority of the member governments on the IAEA board were partly influenced by the United States due to seeing the conflicts that would arise in the future. Although there were a few who objected to Mohamed’s appointment to the Director–General post, many saw him as the perfect candidate for the position, having a western intellect and a Third World sensitivity and coming from a developing country.
After his appointment to the Director–General post of the IAEA, Mohamed stated:
"For international organizations to enjoy the confidence and support of their members, they have to be responsive to needs; show concrete achievements; conduct their activities in a cost-effective manner; and respect a process of equitable representation, transparency, and open dialogue."
Response to the 9/11 Attacks
Mohamed’s first term as Director General saw changes on how the International Atomic Energy Agency did things. He adopted the Model Additional Protocol to provide the IAEA greater authority to hunt down undeclared nuclear activities and launched a program to integrate the additional protocol to the IAEA’s current safeguard agreements.
He also encouraged the member nations to use the Additional Protocol in order to achieve a safer system, in which many nations responded. By November 2009, 93 countries have enforced Additional Protocols. His success during his first term caused Mohamed to be re-elected as Director–General in 2001.
Two months after Mohamed’s re-election, the United States suffered a devastating terrorist attack that destroyed three of the towers of the U.S. World Trade Center, proving that more had to be done to protect a country’s nuclear installation from theft or attack by terrorists. In response to this, Mohamed immediately enacted the Nuclear Security Fund, a security program designed to counter the risk of nuclear terrorism and to help the member states to further strengthen the protection of their nuclear material and installations.
During his second term as Director–General of the IAEA, Mohamed got into a major controversy when he opposed the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, stating that the documents presented by the U.S. to prove that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium from Niger were not authentic and was forged, after the IAEA conducted an inspection in Iraq. This brought Mohamed into several clashes with the U.S. government, and his work was scrutinized.
However, Mohamed maintained his position regarding Iraq and concluded that Saddam Hussein did not revive his nuclear weapons program, in spite of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s statements that Iraq has started making nuclear weapons on several fronts. In a speech done by Mohamed in 2004, he stated:
"We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction, yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security–and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use. If the world does not change course, we risk self-destruction."
Negotiating with North Korea
With regards to North Korea, however, Mohamed has a different opinion. During an attempted inspection held by the IAEA in the country, the government expelled the IAEA officials. Interviews with Mohamed regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons capability have proven the United States government’s statements that the country is indeed a threat because they have the ability to produce nuclear bombs. In one of his interviews, Mohamed stated:
"They probably have enough plutonium to make a few bombs. That makes the most dangerous proliferation situation … a country that is completely beleaguered, isolated, has nothing to lose ..."
Because of this, talks between several countries and North Korea began and in 2005, North Korea announced that it was going to stop its nuclear weapons program.
Winning the Nobel Peace Prize
Aside from the nuclear weapons issue, Mohamed has also focused himself on using nuclear technology for the benefit of the people. In 2004, he sponsored PACT (the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy), a global initiative to fight cancer. During its first year, PACT has provided cancer-treatment capability to seven of the member states in the IAEA, using the IAEA’s winnings from the Nobel Peace Prize. In a 2008 speech made by Mohamed to the General Conference, he stated:
"Development activities remain central to our work. Our resources have long been insufficient to keep pace with requests for support, and we have increasingly made use of partnerships with other organizations, regional collaborations and country-to-country support. I again emphasize that technical cooperation is not a bargaining chip, part of a political 'balance' between the development and safeguards activities of the agency."
In 2005, the International Atomic Energy Agency and Mohamed ElBaradei was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in preventing nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and for ensuring that nuclear energy is used in the safest possible way. After the awards, Mohamed donated all of the winnings to charity, in order to construct orphanages in Cairo.
In his Nobel lecture, Mohamed stressed the importance of keeping nuclear and radioactive material out of the reach of extremist groups who would use them for their own agenda. He also emphasized that nuclear weapons have no role in the security of a nation, and that the money used to invest for such should be used for more useful purposes.
That same year, Mohamed was also elected to his third term as the IAEA’s Director–General. Despite being initially opposed by the United States, claiming that Mohamed was in talks with several Iranian diplomats through several wiretap operations done by the intelligence agency, they were unable to win the support of all the other member countries to remove Mohamed from position. In fact, this action gained Mohamed more sympathy, with the Chinese government praising his leadership and objectivity. Mohamed’s work has not only become well-known in the council, but also in the international community, which enabled him to continue in his position.
Says No to a Fourth Term
In 2008, Mohamed ElBaradei declared that he would not be seeking a fourth term in the IAEA as its Director–General. During the election, Mohamed expressed some concern due to a split decision from the board of governors. He said, “I just hope that the agency has a candidate acceptable to all—north, south, east, west—because that is what is needed.” After multiple voting rounds, Yukiya Amano from Japan was elected to succeed Mohamed.
Even after leaving the IAEA, Mohamed continued defending Iran from the United States’ claims of nuclear weapons development due to evidence of Iran not using their nuclear material for military purposes, but has expressed regret over Iran not implementing any of the security measures that were given by the Security Council and the IAEA Board. However, Mohamed has also stated that he believes Iran does not, and will not pursue creating nuclear weapons.
He has also made statements regarding Israel being the real threat in the Middle East due to manufacturing nuclear weapons, causing the Non Proliferation Treaty to be of no effect to the eyes of the Arab public. In an interview, Mohamed said:
"To get people away from the idea that Iran will be a threat from tomorrow and that we are faced right now with the issue of whether Iran should be bombed or allowed to have the bomb. We are not at all in that situation. Iraq is a glaring example of how, in many cases, the use of force exacerbates the problem rather than [solves] it."
Due to his statements regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons issues, Mohamed has received numerous criticisms; some even believe that Mohamed is supporting Iran in developing nuclear bombs. However, Mohamed denies this allegation, simply stating that going to war against another nation is not going to be the solution to stop them from constructing nuclear weapons.
Joining Protests in Egypt
Since he left the United Nations, Mohamed has channeled all of his efforts into helping his country achieve a democratic regime. In 2011, amidst the turmoil of the Egyptian revolution, Mohamed arrived in Egypt and joined the protesters in their demonstrations against the regime of President Mubarak. Mohamed made several speeches during the protests, encouraging the people to fight for their rights and for democracy. A year before, while speaking at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Mohamed expressed his desire to be “an agent of change and an advocate for democracy.”
Upon the fall of Mubarak, in the midst of the speculations that Mohamed expressed interest in running for the presidency, Mohamed was meeting with several opposition leaders to discuss about the rebuilding of Egypt, which further strengthened the speculations. This went on for months, until he formally announced that he would not run for the presidency in January 2012. However, two weeks later, Mohamed founded the Constitution Party, although he was already late to file a candidacy for the presidency.
Throughout his career, Mohamed has received numerous awards and honorary degrees for his efforts in using nuclear technology for the betterment of the human race. He has also served in many international relief organizations, such as the International Crisis Group. Currently, he is a member of the American Society of International Law and the International Law Association.
Mohamed Writes a Book: The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times
In 2011, Mohamed authored a book, "The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times," Mohamed explained how scrambling of nations to get nuclear weapons should be a cause of alarm. According to a Huffington Post report, “In this new book, ElBaradei reports on a deeply disturbing development—a scramble by numerous nations, driven by fear and insecurity, to obtain nuclear weapons or to maintain their own privileged nuclear status.” Read more about the report at Huffington Post
Mohamed’s family life is also successful and harmonious. He married Aida El-Kachef, an early-childhood teacher, who bore him two children, namely, Laila, who is currently a lawyer in London, and Mostafa, who is an IT Manager in one of the most successful companies in Cairo.
Mohamed ElBaradei is actively participating in Egypt’s governmental, societal and economic issues, helping many of its citizens rise up from poverty and lack. He also goes around the world, giving speeches in conventions and programmes held by many organizations who are devoted to promoting human rights and freedom.
Political, Diplomatic and International Career
- 1964-1974: Worked in the Ministry of External Affairs, Permanent Missions of Egypt to the U.N.
- 1974-1978: Worked as a Special Assistant to the Foreign Minister
- 1980: Worked as a Senior Fellow at the U.N. Institute for Training and Research
- 1981-1987: Worked as an Adjunct Professor of International Law at NYU School of Law
- 1984-1993: Worked as Legal Adviser for the IAEA, member of the Secretariat
- 1993-1997: Worked as the Assistant Director General for External Relations of the IAEA
- 1997-2009: Worked as the Director General of the IAEA
- 2009-present: Led the National Coalition for Change
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- International Law Association
- American Society of International Law
- International Atomic Energy Agency
- National Salvation Front
- International Crisis Group
- Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy
- National Association for Change
Awards and Achievements
- 2005: Won the Nobel Peace Prize (with IAEA)
- 2006: Received the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award
- 2006: Conferred the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Nile
- 2006: Inducted as an Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society of Trinity College
- 2006: Received the Human Security Award from the Muslim Public Affairs Council
- 2006: Received the Jit Trainor Award from Georgetown University
- 2006: Presented the Keys of the City of Bari, Italy
- 2006: Received the Prix de la Fondation Award from Crans Montana Forum
- 2006: Received the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement
- 2006: Received the James Parks Morton Interfaith Award
- 2006: Received the Mund Auf Award from the Institute of Advanced Dental Studies in Germany
- 2006: Received the Der Steiger Award for Tolerance
- 2007: Won the Golden Dove of Peace Prize
- 2007: Received the El Athir Award
- 2007: Received the Mostar International Peace Award from the Mostar Center for Peace and Multiethnic Cooperation
- 2007: Received the Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Technology from the World Nuclear Association
- 2007: Won the Atoms for Peace Prize from the International Institute for Sustainable Peace and the World Council of Nuclear Workers
- 2007: Recognized as a Distinguished Citizen of Montevideo, Uruguay
- 2007: Received the Breastplate of the Russian Foreign Ministry for his Contribution to International Cooperation
- 2007: Received the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit from Chile
- 2007: Inducted as an Honorary Citizen of the City of Florence
- 2008: Received the Peacebuilding Award from the EastWest Institute
- 2008: Received the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development
- 2008: Won the International Seville NODO Prize for Peace, Security and Inter-Cultural Dialogue
- 2009: Received the Delta Prize for Global Understanding
- 2009: Received Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria
- 2009: Recognized as a Distinguished Visitor of La Paz, Bolivia
- 2009: Recognized as a Distinguished Visitor of Quito, Ecuador
- 2010: Conferred the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Grand Cross with Star and Sash)
- 2010: Won the XIV International Grupo Compostela-Xunta de Galicia Prize
- Conferred the Order of Francisk Skorina
- Conferred the Order of Friendship of Peoples
- 2004: Honorary Doctorate in Law from New York University
- 2006: Honorary Degree from the Free Mediterranean University Jean Monnet
- 2006: Honorary Doctorate in Public Service from the University of Maryland, USA
- 2006: Honorary Doctorate from Soka University
- 2006: Honorary Doctorate from Tsinghua University
- 2007: Honorary Doctorate from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
- 2007: Honorary Doctorate in Political Science from Konkuk University in Seoul, Republic of Korea
- 2007: Honorary Degree in Physics and Astrophysics from the University of Florence
- 2007: Doctor Honoris Causa in Law from the University of Buenos Aires
- 2007: Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Cuyo
- 2008: Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Amherst College
- 2008: Honorary Doctorate in International Law from Cairo University
- 2009: Honorary Degree in International Relations from the University of Perugia
- 2010: Honorary Doctorate in Law from the University of Dublin