The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a coalition of non-governmental organisations from over 100 countries around the globe.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee honoured the Geneva-based group “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.”
ICAN has been the leading civil society actor in the effort to achieve a prohibition of nuclear weapons under international law, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in Oslo on October 6.
The committee emphasised that “the next steps towards attaining a world free of nuclear weapons must involve the nuclear-armed states”. It said the 2017 Peace Prize called upon nuclear-armed states to initiate negotiations to gradual elimination of the world’s 15,000 nuclear weapons .
ICAN had in the past year given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigour, it added.
ICAN describes itself as a coalition of grass roots 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, leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
ICAN leader delighted
ICAN leader Beatrice Fihn was delighted with the news that the organisation is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, awards committee head Reiss-Andersen said.
Ms. Fihn told reporters, “We can’t threaten to indiscriminately slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians in the name of security. That’s not how you build security.”
Ms. Fihn said the group had received a phone call minutes before the official announcement was made. But she thought it was “a prank” and she didn’t believe it until she heard the name of the group during the Peace Prize announcement in Oslo.
A spokeswoman for ICAN said the organisation was overjoyed at winning the Peace Prize. “As you can imagine, we are elated. This is great news," Daniela Varano told Reuters. “It's great recognition for the work that the campaigners did throughout the years and especially the Hibakusha,” she said, referring to survivors of atom bombs in Japan. “Their testimony was critical, was crucial and for such an amazing success.”
ICAN said in a statement on its Facebook page, “This award shines a needed light on the path the ban treaty provides towards a world free of nuclear weapons. Before it is too late, we must take that path. This is a time of great global tension, when fiery rhetoric could all too easily lead us, inexorably, to unspeakable horror. The spectre of nuclear conflict looms large once more. If ever there were a moment for nations to declare their unequivocal opposition to nuclear weapons, that moment is now.”
In July, 122 nations adopted a U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons but nuclear-armed states, including the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France stayed out of the talks.
The Nobel Prize seeks to bolster the case of disarmament amid nuclear tensions between the United States and North Korea and uncertainty over the fate of a 2015 deal between Iran and major powers to limit Tehran's nuclear programme.
U.S. President Donald Trump has called the Iran agreement the “worst deal ever negotiated” and a senior administration official said on Thursday that Mr. Trump is expected to announce soon that he would decertify the landmark pact.
Ms. Reiss-Andersen denied that the prize was “a kick in the leg” for Mr. Trump. She said the prize was a call to states that have nuclear weapons to fulfil earlier pledges to work towards disarmament. “The message is to remind them to the commitment they have already made that they have to work for a nuclear free world," she told Reuters.
The United Nations said the award would help bolster efforts to get the 55 ratifications by countries for the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to come into force. “I hope this prize will be conducive for the entry into force of this treaty,” U.N. Chief Spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci told a news briefing.
More than 300 nominations
The Norwegian committee sorted through more than 300 nominations for the award, which recognises both accomplishments and intentions.
The Norwegian committee does not release names of those it considers for the prize, but said 215 individuals and 103 organisations were nominated.
Observers saw the Syrian volunteer humanitarian organisation White Helmets as a top contender, along with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini for shepherding the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear programme.
(With inputs from AP, Reuters)