ICAN wins Nobel Peace Prize

Campaign Against Nuke Weapons


Nuclear disarmament campaign group ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday for its efforts to rid the world of the atomic bomb, warning that Donald Trump’s presidency showed how dangerous the weapons of mass destruction truly are.

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 as nuclear-related crises swirl around North Korea and Iran, reports AFP.

The decision sent a strong message at a time when Trump has threatened to tear up a 2015 deal curbing Iran’s nuclear abilities. And the US president last month alarmed delegates at the UN General Assembly by warning he may be forced to “totally destroy” North Korea because of its atomic weapons programme.

“We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time,” said Norwegian Nobel Committee President Berit Reiss-Andersen in announcing the prize in Oslo.

“Some states are modernising their nuclear arsenals, and there is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea.”

But she stressed that the committee’s decision wasn’t aimed at any particular world leader, adding: “We’re not kicking anyone’s leg with this prize.”

Founded in Vienna in 2007, ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) comprises more than 400 NGOs and has mobilised supporters and celebrities alike in its cause.

It was a key player in the adoption of a historic nuclear weapons ban treaty, signed at the UN by 122 countries in July.

However, the accord was largely symbolic as none of the nine known world nuclear powers put their names down. It still needs to be ratified before entering into force.

The US, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea are all thought to possess weapons of mass destruction.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, ICAN’s head Beatrice Fihn said Trump’s movements over North Korea and Iran showed the clear danger posed by nuclear arms.

“The election of President Donald Trump has made a lot of people feel very uncomfortable with the fact that he alone can authorise the use of nuclear weapons,” she said, adding that the US leader has a track record of “not listening to expertise.”

Although global atomic weapons stockpiles have plummeted — from around 64,000 warheads in 1986 at the height of the Cold War to more than 9,000 in 2017 according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) — the number of nuclear-armed nations has grown. Yesterday’s award — the climax to a week of prize-giving honouring global luminaries in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine and literature — comes as a global nuclear deal with Iran is under increasing pressure from Trump.

The agreement struck in 2015 between Iran and world powers drastically curbed Tehran’s nuclear enrichment capability in return for a lifting of punishing economic sanctions. Iran denies ever pursuing a bomb, insisting its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy production only.

But Trump has threatened to bin the accord altogether, and on Thursday criticised Iran’s behaviour, telling military leaders in Washington that Tehran has “not lived up to the spirit of the agreement”.

Tensions have also soared between the US and North Korea, which has test-fired two missiles over Japan and conducted a string of apparent underground nuclear tests this year.

Survivors of the World War II atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki congratulated ICAN on winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, vowing to work together with the disarmament group to achieve a nuclear-free world.

“I’m delighted that ICAN, which has taken action to abolish nuclear weapons like us, won the Nobel Peace Prize,” Sunao Tsuboi, who suffered serious burns in the blast and subsequently developed cancer, said in a statement, according to Japan’s public broadcaster NHK.

“I want to offer my warmest congratulations,” said the long-time Hiroshima campaigner for nuclear disarmament.

“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 92-year-old said.

Tsuboi was among a handful of Hiroshima survivors who met then US president Barack Obama during his historic visit to the city last year.

“We want to take great delight as it helped build up a treaty banning nuclear weapons,” Shigemitsu Tanaka, a Nagasaki survivor, told reporters.

“We want to work together so that the nuclear disarmament treaty can be signed as soon as possible,” said Tanaka, head of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council.

Ageing survivors of the atomic bombing of the two Japanese cities have long spearheaded an anti-nuclear campaign.

On August 6 in 1945, the US dropped an atomic bomb on the southern Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing 140,000 people, according to estimates.

Three days later, a second bomb devastated Nagasaki, killing an estimated 74,000 people.

The United Nations praised the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to ICAN as good news in a world where the elimination of nuclear weapons is needed more than ever.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was among the first to congratulate the ICAN for its win. “Now more than ever we need a world without nuclear weapons,” he said on Twitter.

A UN spokeswoman in Geneva, Alessandra Vellucci, said the award is “a good omen” for the eventual ratification of a treaty banning nuclear weapons, the UN said.

EU Foreign Affairs chief Federica Mogherini also congratulated ICAN, tweeting: “We share a strong commitment to achieving the objective of a world free from nuclear weapons.”

But Russia, which according to BAS has the world’s largest atomic stockpile, said there was no alternative to “nuclear parity” to guarantee world peace.

“Russia is a responsible member of the nuclear club,” a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin told reporters in Moscow.

The Nobel committee has rewarded anti-nuclear weapons drives on several previous occasions.

Over 300 people and organisations 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 gold 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 philanthropist and dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel.

The time to ban nuclear weapons “is now”, nuclear disarmament group ICAN said yesterday, after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, add AFP and Reuters.

“This is a time of great global tension, when fiery rhetoric could all too easily lead us, inexorably, to unspeakable horror”, the Geneva-based organisation said in a statement.

“The spectre of nuclear conflict looms large once more. If ever there were a moment for nations to declare their unequivocal opposition to nuclear weapons, that moment is now.”

The ICAN said the Nobel award was a “tribute” to the two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were attacked by American atomic bombs at the end of World War II.

As nuclear-fuelled tensions intensify between the US and its rivals in North Korea and Iran, ICAN also blasted some nations, saying: “The belief of some governments that nuclear weapons are a legitimate and essential source of security is not only misguided, but also dangerous, for it incites proliferation and undermines disarmament.”

It also said, “We applaud those nations that have already signed and ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and we urge all others to follow their lead. It offers a pathway forward at a time of alarming crisis. Disarmament is not a pipe dream, but an urgent humanitarian necessity.

“We most humbly thank the Norwegian Nobel Committee. This award shines a needed light on the path the ban treaty provides towards a world free of nuclear weapons. Before it is too late, we must take that path.”

The statement further reads: “It is a great honour to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 in recognition of our role in achieving the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

“This historic agreement, adopted on July 7 with the backing of 122 nations, offers a powerful, much-needed alternative to a world in which threats of mass destruction are allowed to prevail and, indeed, are escalating.

“The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a coalition of non-governmental organisations in one hundred countries.

“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.

“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, whose searing testimonies and unstinting advocacy were instrumental in securing this landmark agreement.

“The treaty categorically outlaws the worst weapons of mass destruction and establishes a clear pathway to their total elimination. It is a response to the ever-deepening concern of the international community that any use of nuclear weapons would inflict catastrophic, widespread and long-lasting harm on people and our living planet.

Source ||The Daily Star||

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