Non-Aligned ElBaradei

IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei is unappreciated:

TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei walked out on an afternoon session Tuesday of his IAEA to protest an EU speech which did not fully support his deal for new inspections in Iran.

“He walked out because the EU did not support the Secretariat,” a diplomat who was at the meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board of governors said.

“The Europeans gave a nasty statement and the director general (ElBaradei) walked out of the room,” a second diplomat said, demanding anonymity in return for revealing information about the closed-door session.

I’ve asked the question before: is the present setup of the IAEA as an independent fiefdom productive or counter-productive?

11 comments… add one
  • [I]s the present setup of the IAEA as an independent fiefdom productive or counter-productive?

    I assumed that was a rhetorical question.

  • Actually, no, Icepick. I try not to ask rhetorical questions.

    My hipshot inclination is that the present set-up isn’t productive but the IAEA was clearly set up as it is for a reason. I’m hoping that someone can produce a reason that continues to resonate today.

    Maybe there isn’t one and it should be re-organized.

  • Sorry for the flip comment earlier.

    Without having read the actual org structure of the IAEA, I can speculate on the reasons for setting it up as an independent agency. Unfortunately, all I have is the obvious, which I’m sure has occurred to you. Namely, such an agency needs to be free of influence from other nations and powers so that everyone can respect its results. However, total independence also means a lack of accountability.

    As far as I’m aware, there is no way around that problem. Eventually, someone in an org structure will end up in a position of authority without accountability. (Here I mean job performance accountability only.) In the USA at the federal level, Supreme Court Justices have such positions, and on a lesser level so do a lot of political assitants in Congress and bureaucrats in the Executive branch that fall just below the Presidential appointment level.

    Corporations and other businesses can have this problem too, but ultimately the markets usually take care of this problem, sometimes in spectacular fashion. (E.g. Enron.) But there’s much less of a market effect for governments. And with international institutions it’s even worse. Truly they have no real purpose except to provide a forum for people to talk past each other. How can one come up with objective performance measures for that? And without something to measure, how are we supposed to judge who’s doing their job effectively?

    Sorry, but that’s all I’ve got.

  • One other example of authority without accoutnability in the US federal government occurs to me: Independent prosecutors.

  • I took no offense, Icepick. Rhetorical questions are so much the norm in the blogosphere that many assume that all questions are rhetorical ones.

    My intuition is that the structure made some sense in a bipolar world but none in the world as we find it now. The only solution I can envision is to dissolve the IAEA in favor of hiring contractors on a per-project basis.

  • Contractors to implement the IAEA’s nonproliferation mission? Or safety? Count me skeptical on that one.

  • What I’m spitballing on, Andy, is the question of why the IAEA is a standing organization. I understand the need for the function. Why isn’t it constituted on an ad hoc basis?

    I’m intending that as a sincere question. Why is the IAEA a standing organization?

  • I am a bit puzzled by your obsession with this. The organisation was set up to be insulated from the political obsession of the moment (par excellence yours of the moment), and to have broad credibility beyond just the “Great Powers.”

    Rather obviously it will, in such a context, not be efficient in being the policy tool of say American obsessions of the moment (thus the asperions Americans heaped on Blix and now his Egyptian successor). It appears you want international bodies to directly serve your interests, perceived, in an immediate way. To call the fellow unanswerable seems silly. He is answerable to a Board that is by design supposed to be insulated from the pressures of the moment. At any given moment that probably will be frustrating for ambitious powers like the US, not noted for its patience. At least it managed to preserve (that is IAEA) its credibility unlike some nations that made wild and unfounded accusations prior to a war of aggression.

  • Lounsbury, I was asking sincere questions. Intermingled in your pique there were some sincere answers. No, I do not expect international institutions to bend to American will. That’s not the question. The question is should the IAEA bend to the Security Council’s will.

    It’s possible that the answer to that question is no, too. To whom should the IAEA be responsible?

  • I guess before answering I’d like to know what problem might be solved, or how the IAEA might be better were its status changed?

    What do you mean by “bend to the security council’s will?”

  • Andy, cf. here.

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