The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017.
The only time nuclear weapons were used during warfare was in the final legs of World War II. The United States dropped nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The bomb was dropped with the knowledge and consent of the United Kingdom. This was called the Quebec Agreement. The bombings resulted in the deaths of at least 129,000 people. The regions continued to be affected for year after the attacks. An increase in the spread of cancer in both the cities have been linked to the bombings.
In 2006, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, adopted a proposal at its biennial congress in Helsinki, Finland, to launch ICAN globally. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons is a global civil society coalition working to promote adherence to and full implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It was founded in 2007 in Australia and is currently headquartered in Geneva. It operates in 101 countries across the world and partners with 468 organizations.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology. It came into force in 1970.
In the recent years, nations like Iran and North Korea have been criticized for developing nuclear arsenal. North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test in 2017 and has even threatened to use it against its foes. There are estimated to be some 15,000 nuclear weapons around the world.
The Nobel Peace Prize (Norwegian: Nobels fredspris) is one of the five Nobel Prizes created by the Swedish industrialist, inventor, and armaments manufacturer Alfred Nobel. The edition was held in 1901. The recipient is selected by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, a five-member committee appointed by the Parliament of Norway.
It was due to the advocacy and pressure from ICAN that in July 2017, 122 nations backed a UN treaty designed to ban and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons. This treaty was, however, not endorsed by the nine known nuclear powers. This includes, US and the UK.
Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairman of the Nobel Committee said, “The Geneva-based organization ICAN was awarded "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 on such weapons.”
Reiss-Andersen also urged nations across the world to adopt disarmament adding, “The laws of war say that we can't target civilians. Nuclear weapons are meant to target civilians; they're meant to wipe out entire cities. That's unacceptable and nuclear weapons no longer get an excuse.” She added, “It's a giant radioactive bomb, it just causes chaos and havoc and civilian casualties. It is not a weapon that you can use in line with the laws of war. Every state matters here. The more states that sign and ratify this treaty the stronger the norm is going to get. They're not moving towards disarmament fast enough."
ICAN’s victory was celebrated by organizations with similar agendas. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s director Dan Smith said, “Almost 50 years ago, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty committed the nuclear weapon states to achieve nuclear disarmament. The effectiveness of the campaign by ICAN is a sign of widespread impatience with what many see as the failure to do that. The world has witnessed declining respect for the unique destructive capacity of nuclear weapons. At a time when the nuclear threat is increasing, ICAN reminds us that it is important to imagine a world in which they do not exist.”
ICAN will receive $1.1 million as prize money and will get a diploma and a medal in December 2017.
Our assessment is that the committee is sending an important message by awarding ICAN. With the increased threat of a nuclear conflict posed by North Korea and the US, this is an important message sent across by the Nobel Committee.