OSLO: Nuclear disarmament group ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its decade-long campaign to rid the world of the atomic bomb as nuclear-fuelled crises swirl over North Korea and Iran.
“The organization is receiving the award for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons,” said Norway’s Nobel committee president Berit Reiss-Andersen.
More than 70 years since atomic bombs were used on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and as tensions flare over the North Korean crisis, the Nobel committee sought to highlight ICAN’s tireless efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
A coalition of more than 300 NGOs founded in Vienna in 2007 on the fringes of an international conference on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, ICAN has tirelessly mobilized campaigners and celebrities alike in its cause.
It was a key player in the adoption of a historic nuclear weapons ban treaty, signed by 122 countries in July. However, the accord was largely symbolic as none of the nine known world nuclear powers signed up to it.
The organization will receive their prize, consisting of a gold medal, a diploma, and a check for nine million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million, 945,000 euros), at a ceremony in Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of the death in 1896 of the prize’s creator, Swedish philanthropist and dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel.
With the nuclear threat at its most acute in decades, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons is urgently pressing to consign the bomb to history.
The Geneva-based organization, known by the acronym ICAN, has for the past decade been sounding the alarm over the massive dangers posed by nuclear weapons and campaigning for a global ban.
It secured a significant victory in July this year when the United Nations adopted a new treaty outlawing nuclear weapons.
But with actual disarmament of the world’s nuclear arsenal likely still far off, ICAN is not resting on its laurels.
“We’re not done yet… The job isn’t done until nuclear weapons are gone,” ICAN chief Beatrice Fihn told Agence France-Presse this week.
Pointing to the current nuclear standoff between Washington and Pyongyang as “a wake-up call”, she insisted on the urgent need to disarm the world’s 15,000 or so nuclear weapons.
“Nuclear weapons have the risk of literally ending the world,” added the Swedish national, who took charge of ICAN in 2014.
“As long as they exist, the risk will be there, and eventually our luck will run out.”
Founded in Vienna in 2007 on the fringes of an international conference on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, ICAN has tirelessly mobilized campaigners and celebrities alike in its cause.
From its offices in the buildings of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, ICAN works with 468 non-governmental organizations across 101 countries, including rights, development, environmental and peace groups.
A decade ago, the anti-nuclear movement was fragmented, Fihn said, explaining that ICAN was created to help a vast array of groups push for a ban similar to the global agreements forbidding the use of biological and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions.