Mohamed Elbaradei: 'Multilateral dialogue is frustrating, slow, and the only option'

From an address by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the United Nations conference on nuclear weapons, in New York
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The Independent Online

Nuclear-weapon states continue to rely on nuclear weapons, because they have developed no alternative to nuclear deterrence. In order to accelerate the elimination of all nuclear weapons, we must channel our creativity and resources towards the development of an alternative system for collective security.

Nuclear-weapon states continue to rely on nuclear weapons, because they have developed no alternative to nuclear deterrence. In order to accelerate the elimination of all nuclear weapons, we must channel our creativity and resources towards the development of an alternative system for collective security.

For non-nuclear-weapon states, one of two conditions can exist. In some cases, they have become dependent on their alliances with nuclear-weapon states - under a security umbrella that also rests on deterrence. In other cases, states feel unprotected because of the absence of such an umbrella. Here, too, we must find a solution. We must do our utmost to create a collective security system that is inclusive and equitable.

In an era of globalisation and interdependence, security strategies founded merely on the priorities of individual countries or groups of countries can only be a short-term solution. We can acknowledge the vulnerabilities of all of us, and focus on the goals we all share. We can put in place a paradigm of a new collective security system that will achieve these goals and enable us to live in freedom and dignity.

This multilateral dialogue in which we are engaging is much like democracy. It is slow, unwieldy and at times frustrating - but it is far superior to any other approach, in terms of the prospects of achieving equitable and therefore durable security solutions. In short, it remains the best - if not the only - option.

This opportunity comes only once every five years. If we fail to act, the Non-Proliferation Treaty may be the same in 2010, but the world certainly will be different. If recent history is any teacher, by 2010, would-be proliferators will continue to innovate, and nuclear technology will continue to spread. The arsenals of nuclear-weapon states will continue to be modernised. And extremist groups will continue their hunt to acquire and use a nuclear device - or, even worse, succeed.

Obviously, we cannot accomplish everything in one month. But we must set the wheels in motion. Humanity deserves no less.

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