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The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, at a time when, as the committee said, “the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time.”
ICAN was granted 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 chairman Berit Reiss-Andersen.
The committee described ICAN, a coalition of non-governmental organizations in 100 countries, as “a driving force in prevailing upon the world’s nations to pledge to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit, and eliminate nuclear weapons.”
The coalition recently played a notable role in garnering support for the historic United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted by 122 countries on July 7. The nine nations with nuclear weapons—the United States, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and the United Kingdom—declined to endorse the treaty.
After the prize was announced, ICAN said in a statement:
“This prize is a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who, ever since the dawn of the atomic age, have loudly protested nuclear weapons, insisting that they can serve no legitimate purpose and must be forever banished from the face of our earth,” the statement also said. “It is a tribute also to the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—the hibakusha—and victims of nuclear test explosions around the world.”
Multiple survivors of the WWII atomic bombings praised the committee’s decision to recognize ICAN.
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“I want to offer my warmest congratulations,” said 92-year-old Sunao Tsuboi, a long-time Hiroshima campaigner for nuclear disarmament who suffered serious burns from the bombing and later developed cancer. “Together with ICAN and many other people, we ‘hibakusha’ will continue to seek a world without nuclear weapons as long as our lives last.”
The Guardian spoke with ICAN executive director Beatrice Fihn, who said she thought the phone call the group received minutes before the official announcement was a prank—”until she heard the name of the group during the announcement in Oslo.”
The award “sends a message to all nuclear-armed states and all states that continue to rely on nuclear weapons for security that it is unacceptable behavior,” Fihn added. “We can’t threaten to indiscriminately slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians in the name of security. That’s not how you build security.”
“At a time when the prospect of nuclear war seems closer than it has for a generation, the award of this prestigious prize is an essential recognition of the global majority against nuclear weapons—and the movement that has done so much to advance it,” said Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which is an ICAN partner organization.
“The U.S.-North Korean nuclear brinkmanship is an enormous challenge to this fantastic work,” Hudson continued. “So too is President [Donald] Trump’s determination to unpick the Iran nuclear weapons deal, a deal that has been widely recognized as highly successful.”
“That’s why we warmly welcome the decision of the Nobel committee to support those who are struggling for more cooperation and less confrontation, defying the sordid logic of our present world leaders who appear to be hell bent on war,” she concluded.
The award announcement followed “foreboding” remarks made by the U.S. president at a Thursday night dinner with high-ranking military officials. Trump’s ominous comments immediately provoked fears of impending war.
This post has been updated to include additional reactions to the announcement.
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