Freedom From Fear : A Nuclear Story


In his 1941 State of the Union speech, Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined four fundamental freedoms which everyone, everywhere ought to enjoy. Freedom from Fear is the fourth and final freedom. In Roosevelt’s words, this means “a world wide reduction of arms to such a point that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbour anywhere in the world.” De-arming the state is the central theme in this freedom. An important ethical principle underlies this human right : no one should live in fear of being attacked without provocation. 

Non-state actors play a crucial role in upholding this universal human right. For example, The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) works to ensure every person enjoys a freedom from fear of nuclear war as an ‘Atoms for Peace’ organisation. The Agency’s objectives are two fold. They aim to 1) accelerate the contribution of atomic energy to peace and prosperity. 2) ensure that its contributions are not used to further any military purpose. 

The IAEA’s work with Iran since 2003 has been integral in securing the Iran Nuclear Deal. In January 2016, IAEA verified Iran’s compliance with a limitation of uranium enrichment agreed under the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Agency will continue to monitor nuclear activities in Iran, thereby serving as a force for atomic peace and upholding a universal freedom from fear. An important aspect of this  ethical commitment is transparency. On the one hand, Iran have publicly declared their issuing of long-term visas and all necessary information to IAEA inspectors. On the other, the details of IAEA’s inspections have been made publicly available in regular reports. This relationship between state and non-state actors is crucial in providing the world with access to transparent information on nuclear disarmament in the pursuit to guarantee a universal freedom from fear.

However, in serving as this force for good, the IAEA has been criticised for issues related to one-dimensional research. Former senior officials voiced their concerns over the lack of vigorous debate and peer reviewed intelligence under the leadership of IAEA head Yakima Amano. These concerns are to be looked at alongside WikiLeaks revelations that Amano’s reminders (to a US Ambassador) that he remained “solidly in the US court on every key strategic decision”. As mentioned, a real freedom from fear hinges on transparent information about the neutrality and rigour of research into nuclear disarmament.

In this age of seemingly cyclical conflict and crises, the international community ought to take seriously the idea underlying FDR’s Freedom from Fear. That is, every person should enjoy a life free from fear of national aggression. This idea is particularly pertinent in the context of the Middle East ; where the civilianisation of recent warfare means that geopolitical conflicts have devastating effects on ordinary communities. To this end, strong and transparent non-state actors are necessary drivers of peace. Their relations with global powers should be consistently reviewed and underlined by a commitment to a Freedom from Fear, which sits firmly at NCF’s ethical basis.