It is the ninth time the United Nations has been honoured by the Nobel committee, either directly, as was the case in 2001, or through one of its agencies.
This award also appears to confirm an anti-nuclear trend on major anniversaries of Hiroshima in recent decades. Mohamed ElBaradei joined the IAEA in 1984 and took the reins from Hans Blix in 1997. Since then the former Egyptian diplomat has worked to stop the spread of nuclear weapons across the world. His independence and outspoken opinions have made him well-known, although not universally well-liked. He has been particularly critical of what he sees as the double standards of countries with nuclear weapons that seek to prevent others from procuring them. In 2003 he tried to convince Washington that Iraq had abandoned its nuclear programme. He said: “We have today found no evidence on ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq. The IAEA experience in nuclear verification shows that it is possible, particularly with an intrusive verification system to assess the presence or the absence of a nuclear weapons programme in a state even without the full cooperation of the inspected states.” What happened next proved him right. Recently, IAEA inspectors have had to deal with major crises in Iraq, North Korea and Iran. Over the past couple of years ElBaradei has also overseen investigations into the nuclear black market. ElBaradei holds a doctorate in international law and his early diplomatic training is evident in everything he does. He recently began a third term at the watchdog after the US withdrew its objections to his appointment. The US had complained he was soft on Iran. But not everyone was happy with the Nobel committee’s decision. Organisations that oppose the use of nuclear energy condemn the IAEA’s commitment to atomic power, which, they say, makes it both nuclear policeman and nuclear salesman.