International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons wins Nobel Peace Prize
Leader of the Nobel committee Berit Reiss-Andersen, left, presents the award to Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow and Beatrice Fihn, leader of International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), in Oslo, Dec. 10. | Berit Roald / NTB Scanpix via AP

The Norwegian Nobel Committee on October 6th awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for raising awareness on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons and achieving the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

ICAN, which is a coalition of 468 groups, was founded in 2007 by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) to mobilize civil society across 100 countries for a nuclear ban. Jeff Carter, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), U.S. affiliate of the IPPNW, said, “The prize feels like validation for all the work we’ve done. We know that the nuclear ban is a lofty goal but we believe it’s an achievable goal.”

On July 7 of this year, 122 nations adopted the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. However, all nine nuclear-armed countries boycotted the talks leading to the treaty and did not sign it. To the contrary, the U.S. plans to spend another $1.2 trillion to upgrade its nuclear arsenal. Still, the fact that the treaty passed represents progress in global understanding of the dangers of nuclear war. The treaty established new goals and new global norms. ICAN played an important role in educating the world about the treaty.

The TPNW is more than paper. It is a milestone international agreement that creates pathways toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Before the TPNW, nuclear weapons were the only class of weapons of mass destruction that were not prohibited under international law. The treaty categorically outlaws nuclear weapons, including their possession.

It also creates an international norm stigmatizing nuclear weapons. All other weapons of mass destruction were first stigmatized by the international community before achieving their sharp curtailment.

The treaty requires assistance to nuclear victims and environmental remediation of contaminated areas. The TPNW recognizes the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on women and indigenous people.

It requires an international authority to verify the irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons programs, including all nuclear weapons facilities.

Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of ICAN, said of the treaty in her acceptance speech in Oslo, “It provides a choice. A choice between the two endings: the end of nuclear weapons or the end of us.”

Speaking alongside Fihn for the Nobel lecture was 85-year-old Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow, who is an ICAN campaigner now living in Toronto. She shared some of her memories of Aug. 6, 1945, when the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb for the first time.

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima. | CC

She was rescued from a collapsed school that day, about a mile from Ground Zero. She was one of the few to survive; almost all her classmates were burned alive that day.

“Processions of ghostly figures shuffled by. Grotesquely wounded people, they were bleeding, burnt, blackened, and swollen,” she said.

“Parts of their bodies were missing. Flesh and skin hung from their bones. Some with their eyeballs hanging in their hands. Some with their bellies burst open, their intestines hanging out. The foul stench of burnt human flesh filled the air.”

Reuters reported that the United States, Britain, and France sent second-rank diplomats to the Nobel prize ceremony, which Fihn characterized as “some kind of protest.”

For a broadcast of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, please see the video here.


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.