Recognising recent tensions arising out of nuclear arms and testing – North Korea and the US are a case in point – the Norwegian Nobel Committee has conferred the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). This was announced on Friday (October 6).
ICAN is a coalition of hundreds of NGOs spread across 100 countries, and is based in Geneva. ICAN played a key role in facilitating the negotiations that led to the signing of the legally binding Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. While 122 nations signed the Treaty (on July 7) nine nations didn’t. They included US, France and seven other nuclear-armed nations, including India. Netherlands had voted against, while Singapore had abstained.
“The organization 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,” the Committee said in a statement.
The committee said in its formal announcement of this year’s prize that its decision came at time when “the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time”.
It said some states were modernising their nuclear arsenals, and there was “a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea. Nuclear weapons pose a constant threat to humanity and all life on earth.”
The international community has previously adopted binding prohibitions against land mines, cluster munitions and biological and chemical weapons, it said, but “nuclear weapons are even more destructive” and have not been outlawed.
ICAN has “helped to fill this legal gap”, describing it as “a driving force in prevailing upon the world’s nations to pledge to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders in efforts to stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons”.
It said it it wanted to “emphasise that the next steps must involve the nuclear-armed states. This year’s Peace Prize is therefore also a call upon these states to initiate serious negotiations with a view to the gradual, balanced and carefully monitored elimination of the almost 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world.”
It concluded: “It is the firm conviction of the Norwegian Nobel Committee that ICAN, more than anyone else, has in the past year given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigour.”
This is not the first time that an organization has won the Noble Peace Prize for nuclear disarmament. In the year 2005, International Atomic Energy Agency won the prize “for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way”.
In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which was headed by Rajendra Pachauri, former head of TERI, won the Noble Peace Prize. Another Indian recipient, Kailash Satyarthi won the prize in 2014 for the abolition of child labour.