International desk, October 06: The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
Berit Reiss-Andersen, the Nobel committee chair, said it was due to the group’s “groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty prohibition” on nuclear weapons.
“We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time,” she continued.
She cited the North Korea issue.
In July, after pressure from Ican, 122 nations backed a UN treaty designed to ban and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons. But none of the nine known nuclear powers in the world – including the UK and the US – endorsed it.
Ms Reiss-Andersen called on nuclear-armed states to initiate negotiations to gradually eliminate the weapons.
Ican, a coalition of hundreds of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), is 10 years old and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. The group will receive nine million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million, £846,000) along with a medal and a diploma at a ceremony in December.
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the group, told reporters that the prize had come as a surprise but that it was “a huge signal” that the group’s work was “needed and appreciated”.
The award for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was unexpected, particularly in a year when the architects of the 2015 nuclear deal between international powers and Iran had been seen as favorites for achieving the sort of diplomatic breakthrough that has won the prize in the past.
Still, supporters saw it as a potential breakthrough for a global movement that has fought to ban nuclear arms from the day the first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in August 1945.
ICAN’s Executive Director Beatrice Fihn told Reuters the group was elated.
Asked if she had a message for North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, who has tested nuclear arms in defiance of global pressure, and President Donald Trump, who has threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea to protect the United States and its allies, she said both leaders need to know that the weapons are illegal. (Graphics of ‘Nobel Laureates’ – here)
“Nuclear weapons are illegal. Threatening to use nuclear weapons is illegal. Having nuclear weapons, possessing nuclear weapons, developing nuclear weapons, is illegal, and they need to stop.”
Two days before her group won the prize, Fihn tweeted that Trump was “a moron”. She told Reuters she had written this in the context of news reports at the time that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had used the same word to describe his boss. But she said Trump’s impulsive character illustrated the importance of banning nuclear arms for all countries.
“A man you can bait with a tweet seems to be taking irrational decisions very quickly and not listening to expertise, it just puts a spotlight on what do nuclear weapons really mean. There are no right hands for the wrong weapons,” she said.
ICAN describes itself as a coalition of grassroots non-government groups in more than 100 nations. It began in Australia and was officially launched in Vienna in 2007.
“We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, the leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
“Some states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and there is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea.”
The award was hailed by anti-nuclear campaigners around the world. Mikiso Iwasa, an 88-year-old Hiroshima survivor, told Reuters the prize would help push the movement forward.
“It is wonderful we have this Nobel Peace-Prize winning movement. All of us need to join forces, think hard and walk forward together to turn this momentum into something even bigger,” he said.