The People Who Made a Nuclear-Weapons-Prohibition Treaty Possible

Source: The Nation

ICAN’s visionary work has brought us that much closer to a nuclear-free world—and won them a Nobel Peace Prize in the process.

Oslo, Norway—From the indigenous communities exposed by remote nuclear tests, to activists living in bustling cities across the globe—a new resistance is growing. Peace Organizations worldwide have joined together to stand up to the nine nuclear-armed states in the form of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, known commonly as ICAN. While many have hailed them for revitalizing the nuclear-disarmament movement, their greatest achievement to date is their influence on the creation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This bold new step in disarmament stands out from previous anti-nuclear movements, because it went after a comprehensive ban. While it won’t as of yet directly eliminate a single nuclear weapon, as none of the current signatories have them, many believe it will significantly alter the nuclear-weapons industry.

The world’s powers remain at a crossroads. According to a recent Pew Poll, one of the few things Americans agree on today is that the nuclear threat coming from North Korea is real and should be taken seriously. On the other hand, the United Nations overwhelmingly voted to adopt a treaty that will prohibit nuclear weapons, and the disarmament movement, it seems, has never been more democratized. That is, ordinary people have never seemed to have such an impact on global affairs. So how can a campaign be awarded for its role in ridding the world of nuclear weapons when nuclear war seems so near?

The Norwegian Nobel Committee acknowledged ICAN’s role in the negotiations as the key factor for awarding it the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017. At this year’s ceremony, Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairman of the Nobel Committee, addressed critics of this movement: “Many people think that the vision of a nuclear weapons free world, global zero, is utopic, or even irresponsible. Similar arguments were once used to oppose treaties banning biological weapons, chemical weapons, cluster munitions and land mines. Nevertheless, the prohibitions became a reality and most of these weapons are far less prevalent as a result. Using them is a taboo.”

The Nobel chairwoman later invoked the words of Ronald Regan, saying, “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value for our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will be never used, but then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?”

Continue reading