Egyptian law scholar, civil servant, and diplomat. Advocate for freedom, democracy, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy across the Arab world.
Featured lessonNuclear Arms Control
Mohamed ElBaradei was born in Cairo in 1942. His father was an attorney who headed the Egyptian Bar Association and supported democratic rights, including a free press and an independent judiciary. Following in those footsteps, Mohamed studied law in Egypt before earning his doctorate in international law at the New York University School of Law in 1974.
Returning to Egypt, he served as special assistant and legal adviser to the foreign minister and in the Egyptian Diplomatic Service, participating in policy and legal activities with organizations including the U.N. General Assembly, the Conference on Disarmament, and the Commission on Human Rights. He left the Egyptian diplomatic service in 1980 to work directly for the United Nations, first as a senior fellow in charge of the International Law Program at the U.N. Institute for Training and Research. From 1981 to 1987, he was also an adjunct professor of international law at New York University.
ElBaradei became the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in December 1997 and served three consecutive terms until 2009. The IAEA was created by the United Nations in 1957 to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Within the first few months of ElBaradei’s tenure, he and his staff began to search more intensely for undeclared nuclear activities around the world. In 2002, ElBaradei and former IAEA Director General Hans Blix traveled to Iraq, with a team of U.N. weapons inspectors, to prove that documents suggesting Iraq had tried to purchase uranium for nuclear weapons were inauthentic. Despite the proof that ElBaradei and Blix found in Iraq, the U.S. invasion began on March 19, 2003. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, ElBaradei also mediated Iran’s nuclear policy.
In 2005, ElBaradei and the IAEA were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their 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.” ElBaradei is also the recipient of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal, the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development, and the Prize for Statesmanship of Friends of Europe.
ElBaradei was later elected leader of the National Association for Change in Egypt. He became a major voice for democratic change and played a key role in the 2011 protests, which led to the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak. Throughout his career as a diplomat, international civil servant, and scholar, he has lectured widely on international law, international organizations, arms control, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
“Imagine a world where we would settle our differences through diplomacy and dialogue and not through bombs or bullets.”
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