International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons wins Nobel Peace Prize 2017

'We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time,' says leader of the committee

Tom Batchelor
Friday 06 October 2017 11:06 BST
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Activists from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons protest against the conflict between North Korea and the US
Activists from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons protest against the conflict between North Korea and the US (AP)

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

The group was awarded the honour 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”.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the Geneva-based group – known by its acronym Ican – had helped to fill a “legal gap” that meant nuclear weapons were not subject to the same prohibitions as land mines, cluster munitions and biological and chemical weapons.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Minister, and Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, had been tipped as frontrunners for their role in orchestrating the Iran nuclear deal that saw the middle-eastern country give up its nuclear weapons development in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions.

Pope Francis, Angela Merkel and the American Civil Liberties Union – which is suing Mr Trump over his attempted transgender military ban – were also in the running.

But with the spectre of nuclear war between the US and North Korea looming, the committee said it was rewarding Ican’s efforts to “stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons”.

“Risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time,” it said.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, announces the Nobel Peace Prize 2017 in Oslo (Reuters)

The committee also issued a direct plea to Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un and the leaders of other nuclear-armed countries, urging them to “initiate serious negotiations with a view to the gradual, balanced and carefully monitored elimination of the almost 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world”.

“It is the firm conviction of the Norwegian Nobel Committee that Ican, more than anyone else, has in the past year given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigour,” the committee added.

Sunao Tsuboi, a 92-year-old survivor of the 1945 Hiroshima nuclear bombing, said he was overjoyed to hear of the Nobel peace award going to Ican.

“As long as I live, I hope to work toward a realisation of a world without nuclear weapons with Ican and many other people,” he said.

As well as receiving plaudits from the highly respected international body, Ican will also be handed $1.1m (£840,000) in prize money.

Pressed about the relevance of the prize since no international measures against nuclear weapons have been reached, committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen replied that “what will not have an impact is being passive”.

“Through its inspiring and innovative support for the UN negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons, Ican has played a major part in bringing about what in our day and age is equivalent to an international peace congress,” she said.

Past winners have included the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, “for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end”, and the National Dialogue Quartet for its work in Tunisia in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring.

Ican, first formed in Australia but officially launched in Austria in 2007, is a coalition of non-governmental organisations in 101 countries promoting adherence to and implementation of the UN nuclear weapon ban treaty.

Responding to the announcement, the group said: “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.”

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