International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons awarded Nobel Peace Prize
The group was honored because of its efforts to foster a global ban on nuclear weapons, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was approved in July by 122 members of the United Nations and opened for signatures last month. The 10-year-old grass-roots civil society movement pushes for nuclear disarmament across the world.
The award comes amid rising global alarm about a potential nuclear conflagration. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has hurled threats of nuclear missile strikes against the United States, and President Trump has warned he could “totally destroy North Korea” if provoked. The barbed exchanges have raised fears among many global leaders of a miscalculation that could end in cataclysmic conflict.
Separately, Trump plans next week to “decertify” Iran’s compliance with an international agreement that limits its nuclear program, a step that European allies worry could lead to nuclear proliferation.
“The risk of nuclear war has grown exceptionally in the last few years, and that’s why it makes this treaty and us receiving this award so important,” Beatrice Fihn, the Swedish executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said in a telephone interview. “We do not have to accept this [risk]. We do not have to live with the kind of fear that Donald Trump could start a nuclear war that would destroy all of us. We should not base our security on whether or not his finger is on the trigger.”
While her group, known as ICAN, recognizes that nuclear weapons will not disappear any time soon, Fihn said it is still a realistic long-term goal, similar to the way an international taboo was created around the use of chemical weapons.
“Keeping nuclear weapons legal isn’t going to help things,” she said.
The Geneva-based coalition, which was modeled on international efforts to ban land mines, says it has branches in more than 100 countries.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has not attracted support from any of the world’s nine nuclear powers, and the United States and others boycotted the U.N. discussions that led to its creation. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said at the time that “we have to be realistic” about the nuclear threat of rogue nations such as North Korea, and she warned that the ban could actually increase the risk of nuclear war, not reduce it.
Nuclear powers around the world repeated their opposition to efforts to ban the weapons following the Nobel announcement Friday.
“The Nuclear Ban Treaty does not move us closer to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. In fact, it risks undermining the progress we have made over the years in disarmament and non-proliferation,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement. “Efforts towards disarmament must take into account the realities of [the] current security environment.”
The White House and leaders of other nuclear powers have instead endorsed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which limits but does not ban the powerful weapons. Russia and the United States hold the world’s largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee recognized ICAN for “its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons,” chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen of Norway said as she announced the prize in Oslo.
“There is a popular belief among people all over the world that the world has become more dangerous, and that there is a tendency where we experience that the threats of nuclear conflict have come closer,” Reiss-Andersen said. The group has been successful in “engaging people in the world who are scared of the fact that they are supposed to be protected by atomic weapons,” she said.