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The world's governments spend $1.5 trillion a year on armaments, while investing less than a tenth of that on economic development in impoverished nations.
That statistic sums up a massive disconnect in the discussion over global security, according to Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate and Egyptian opposition leader who will speak Thursday at the University of Utah.
"We need to re-engineer the concept of global security. There are 70 conflicts going on around the world, but we still deal with symptoms of insecurity rather than the root causes," ElBaradei said Monday in a phone interview from a hotel in Philadelphia.
"We still look at security as a zero-sum game, which it is not," he continued. "We continue to rely on the nuclear deterrent, which is clearly obsolete right now. It's an incentive to follow the big boys if they feel insecure."
On Thursday, he will describe how growing inequities make the world increasingly less secure. ElBaradei will appear in the U.'s Kingsbury Hall as the keynote speaker for the World Leaders Forum, sponsored by the Tanner Humanities Center, for a free lecture titled "The Challenge of Security in Our World."
ElBaradei as "one of the leading experts on global security in the nuclear age," said U. historian Bob Goldberg, who directs the Tanner center and co-directs the Middle East Center. "His work and efforts in Iraq, Iran and North Korea have had an immense impact by addressing core issues facing worldwide peace and prosperity."
ElBaradei was director general of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency from 1997 to 2009. Efforts to contain nuclear proliferation won him and his agency the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.
The U. forum was set to host ElBaradei last year, but he withdrew to explore a run for president after the ouster of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
He established Egypt's new Constitution Party this year, aimed at uniting all Egyptians, regardless of faith or ideology, under democracy. The party formed too late to field a presidential candidate, and Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi won the post in June. But ElBaradei said a presidential run would have been premature since Egypt has yet to adopt a new constitution.
"I won't run for a job if I don't know the job description," he said. "I continue to fight for a system that is modern, democratic, preserves liberties and works for social justice."
His talk Thursday will be far broader than last year's Arab Spring and its aftermath.
"I'll talk about how our challenges have become interconnected," he said. "Poverty, climate change, communicable disease, financial crises, you name it, these are challenges that can't be dealt with by one country."
What is required is not bigger fences and more advanced weapons systems, he said, but a new framework that can address these interlocking problems, particularly the growing chasm between rich and poor.
ElBaradei's plea to American leaders: "Unless we have a world that is equitable, we won't have a world that is secure. Investing in global development is investing in their own security."
P The 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner will talk about the connection between global security and social inequality when he speaks at the World Leaders Lecture Forum, sponsored by the University of Utah's Tanner Humanities Center.
When • 3:30 p.m. Thursday
Where • Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City