In his last month as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei found himself at the explosive crux of the world’s nuclear politics, leading negotiations between the Obama administration and Tehran in an effort to break the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program. He had been intimately involved with this crisis in the previous six years as the IAEA worked to verify the nature of the Iranian program.
He grew up in Cairo, earning his Bachelor Degree in law from Cairo University and a doctorate in international law from New York University School of Law. Dr. ElBaradei began his career in the Egyptian Diplomatic Service in 1964, serving in the Permanent Missions of Egypt to the United Nations in New York and Geneva, in charge of political, legal and arms control issues. During this period, Dr. ElBaradei participated in the activities of many international and regional organizations, including: the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Security Council, the Conference on Disarmament, the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, the International Labour Organization, the World Health Organization, the Commission on Human Rights, the Organization of African Unity and the League of Arab States. From 1974 to 1978 Dr. ElBaradei was a special assistant to the Foreign Minister of Egypt. During this period, he was a member of the negotiating team that led to the conclusion of the disengagement agreements between Egypt and Israel. In 1980, he left the Diplomatic Service to join the United Nations 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 staff member of the IAEA Secretariat, holding a number of high-level policy positions, including that of Legal Adviser and Assistant Director General. In the wake of the 1991 Gulf War, the Security Council mandated the IAEA to eliminate Iraq’s clandestine nuclear weapons program. The IAEA completed this task by 1997, rendering all of Iraq’s nuclear activities harmless. In 1997, Dr ElBaradei was elected to succeed Hans Blix as Director General of the IAEA.
Dr. ElBaradei served three terms as Director General of the IAEA, an intergovernmental organization, part of the United Nations system, with a mandate to make nuclear technology available for peaceful purposes and to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. During his tenure, Dr. ElBaradei pioneered measures to strengthen the non-proliferation regime and was a staunch advocate of nuclear disarmament. He also made a priority of promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear power for development to redress inequality and help lift the one third of humanity who live on under two dollars a day out of poverty.
In October 2005, Dr. ElBaradei and the IAEA were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.