Nuclear disarmament group ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its decade-long campaign to rid the world of the atomic bomb as nuclear-fueled crises swirl over North Korea and Iran. More than 70 years since atomic bombs were used on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Nobel committee sought to highlight ICAN’s tireless non-proliferation efforts.
The decision sent a strong message to US President Donald Trump, who has threatened to tear up a 2015 deal curbing Iran’s nuclear programme and who last month alarmed delegates at the UN General Assembly by warning he may be forced to “totally destroy” North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
ICAN “is receiving the award 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,” said Norwegian Nobel committee president Berit Reiss-Andersen in announcing the prize in Oslo.
“We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time,” she said. Founded in Vienna in 2007 on the fringes of an international conference on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, ICAN (the International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) has mobilised campaigners and celebrities alike in its cause.
It was a key player in the adoption of a historic nuclear weapons ban treaty, signed by 122 countries in July. However, the accord was largely symbolic as none of the nine known world nuclear powers signed up to it.
The coalition of hundreds of NGOs says its main objective is the adoption of an international treaty banning nuclear weapons, along the lines of earlier agreements forbidding the use of biological and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions.
“A global ban on nuclear weapons is long overdue,” the organization says on its website. Despite July’s success, ICAN is not resting on its laurels. “We’re not done yet. The job isn’t done until nuclear weapons are gone,” ICAN chief Beatrice Fihn said this week.
More than 300 people and organizations were thought to have been nominated for this year’s Peace Prize, including the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR, Syria’s White Helmets rescue service and Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege.
The Peace Prize, which comes with a golden medal and a cheque for nine million Swedish kronor (943,000 euros, $1.1 million) will be presented in Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of the death of its founder, Swedish businessman and philanthropist Alfred Nobel.