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Laudatio uitgesproken door prof. dr. Benjamin Van Camp

Laudatio Hans Blix

Dr. Hans Blix was born in 1928 in Uppsala, Sweden. He studied at the University of Uppsala; at Columbia University, where he was also a research graduate; and at Cambridge University, where he received his PhD.

In 1959, he became Doctor of Laws at the Stockholm University, and in 1960, was appointed Associate Professor in International Law.

He received an honorary doctorate from Moscow State University in 1987 and the Henry de Wolf Smyth Award in 1988. In 1997, he was awarded the Gold Medal for distinguished service in the field of nuclear affairs by the Uranium Institute, the predecessor to the World Nuclear Association. In 2001 he became Honorary Chairman of the WNA.

From 1963 to 1976, Dr. Blix was Head of Department at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and served as Legal Adviser on International Law. In 1976, he became Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, in charge of international development cooperation. He was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs in October 1978.
From 1961 until 1981, he was a member of Sweden’s delegation to the United Nations General Assembly; and from 1962 to 1978, a member of the Swedish delegation to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

He served as Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1981 to 1997.

He has written several books on subjects associated with international and constitutional law and was a leader of the Liberal Campaign Committee in favour of retention of the Swedish nuclear energy programme in the referendum in 1980.

Dr. Blix was appointed to the position of Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) by the UN Secretary-General in January 2000 and took up his duties on 1 March 2000. He left the post in June 2003. He is currently Chairman of the International Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction.

You are a Swede. You may be astounded that I state this fact. Nevertheless, it implies that you come from a country that has enjoyed freedom from war for over 180 years. Sweden is very conscious of this fact, and it is therefore no coincidence that for many decades your country has played and keeps on playing a significant role in international initiatives to support global peace and security.

In that sense you belong to a distinguished lineage, which includes names such as:

  • Count Folke Bernadotte, the first UN mediator, who was assassinated in 1948 in the first of many vain attempts to bring peace to the Middle East;
  • UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold (1953–1961), who was killed in a plane crash while on a peace mission in Congo;
  • Ambassador Alva Myrdal, who played a significant role in the negotiation of the 1969 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weap-ons Convention;
  • Prime Minister Olof Palme, who will be remembered for his efforts to pull Europe back from the brink of nuclear disaster and his mediation efforts in the 1980–88 Iran–Iraq war;
  • Prime Minister Carl Bildt, who between May 1999 and July 2001 served as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to try and resolve the conflict in the Bal-kans; and
  • Ambassador Rolf Ekéus, who in the 1980s played a prominent role in the negotia-tion of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention and after the 1991 Gulf War be-came the Executive Chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) to eliminate Iraq’s unconventional weaponry.

And there are many more Swedes who served the cause of world peace; too many to enumerate them all.

The United Nations have also played a key role in your career. For 20 years—from 1961 until 1991—you were part of the Swedish delegation to the UN Assembly and between 1962 and 1978 you participated in the meetings of the UN Conference on Disarmament (as it is now known). After that you served as Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1981 until 1997. In 1988, you received the Henry DeWolf Smyth Nuclear Statesman Award. In 1997 you were awarded the Gold Medal for distinguished service in the field of nuclear affairs by the Uranium Institute (now the World Nuclear Association). Yesterday, (a seminar organized by the VUB) recognized your contribution to safeguarding the atoms for peaceful purposes.

Today, however, we honour you for your efforts to disarm Iraq and preserve the spirit of verified multilateral disarmament in a world that has grown impatient with the truth. You rightly believed that you were entitled to retirement in 1997. However, when in 2000 UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called upon you to head the UN Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) — you were on vacation in Antarctica — your sense of duty to peace and security made you accept this new challenge. Your mild-mannered approach and your ability to keep your cool in the most testing of times did not make you a favourite choice in certain quarters, but these characteristics definitely helped you to rise above the smear campaigns and attempts at character assassination that followed your appointment. In the end you prevailed. And you have your admirers too: you must be the only diplomat I know who has a fan site on the Internet.

Disarmament is one of the key tools to avoid conflict escalation and to bring stability to troubled regions. Verification and inspections enable states to acquire confidence in the treaty compliance of other states. Today, these premises are being challenged in certain quarters. You have experienced the challenge at first hand. You knew that verifi-cation takes time and you had to find the middle ground between the wildest allegations about Iraq’s unconventional weapon programmes and the lack of substantive coopera-tion by the Iraqi authorities in resolving the outstanding issues. Each report you submit-ted to the UN Security Council was a potential trigger for war; a fact that must have weighed heavily on your conscience. Your only tools were factual objectivity, your personal cool, and your optimism that you could accomplish your assignment.

The war has come, but this is no fault of yours. The conclusions in your reports to the UN Security Council are still valid. Despite the deployment of much larger national inspection teams of the occupying powers, no fresh evidence of threatening Iraqi biological, chemical, nuclear, or missile weapon programmes has come to light. This may be of little consolation to you. Nonetheless, you have the heartened the people who still believe in the contribution of arms control and disarmament to international peace and security: inspections and verification do work; they can reveal the necessary proof as to whether a state is cheating on its international obligations or not, even if that state refuses to fully cooperate.

Fortunately, your role in the support of disarmament is not yet over. There are efforts underway to preserve the UNMOVIC expertise as a tool for the UN Secretary-general to investigate gross violations of disarmament treaties. I am sure that your expertise will be sought. Furthermore, Sweden, as ever, is in the process of establishing an independent international commission on global disarmament challenges, and the late Foreign Minister Anna Lindh invited you to head this body. This is just one more recognition of your contribution to the unending quest for global security.