ICAN Wins Nobel Peace Prize

ICAN Wins Nobel Peace Prize

By GABRIEL MORAN | October 21, 2017

On October 6, the Nobel Committee announced that International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner.

In a statement, Nobel Committee Chair Berit Reiss-Andersen cited ICAN’s "groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty prohibition" on nuclear weapons. The committee expressed growing concerns about the spread of nuclear weapons to North Korea and the heightened tensions of nuclear war.

ICAN is a coalition of non-governmental organizations in one hundred countries, promoting efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons proliferation. ICAN was initiated in Australia but it was officially launched in 2007 in the Austrian city of Vienna. ICAN’s supporters include Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, actor Charlie Sheen, and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. The organization has over 468 partners in 101 countries.

In July, ICAN worked with 122 nations to back a UN treaty designed to ban and gradually eliminate nuclear weapons. The ban prohibits nations from numerous uses of nuclear weapons, from developing and manufacturing to possessing and threatening to use them. The move further disallows nuclear weapons from being stationed on their territory, and prohibits the countries from assisting, encouraging, or inducing anyone to engage in such activities. At present, 53 countries have signed onto the treaty.

Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of ICAN, expressed her surprise and elation after receiving this year's prize. In a statement, Ms. Fihn said, “This prize is really a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who have, ever since the dawn of the Atomic Age, loudly protested nuclear weapons, insisting that they can serve no legitimate purpose and must be forever banished from the face of our Earth."

For some, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN came as a surprise. Yet, historians have few doubts that the Nobel Committee was making a political statement. Nobel Prize historian, Eivind Stenersen, said that the prize was clearly intended to “send a signal to North Korea and the U.S. that they need to go into negotiations.” The award also comes at a time when the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement, regarding the Iranian nuclear program, remains uncertain.

The international response to these comments were mixed.  

In a statement from the U.S. State Department, the United States reiterated that the announcement “does not change the U.S. position on the treaty: the United States does not support and will not sign the 'Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.’ ”

Regardless, the award gives ICAN necessary momentum and recognition to further its cause. 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.

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