First Published: 2017-10-06

Nuclear disarmament group ICAN wins Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel committee highlights ICAN's tireless non-proliferation efforts in decades-long campaign to rid world of atomic bombs.
Middle East Online

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was founded in Vienna in 2007.

TEHRAN - Nuclear disarmament group ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its decade-long campaign to rid the world of the atomic bomb as nuclear-fuelled crises swirl over North Korea and Iran.

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.

The decision sent a strong message to nuclear-armed nations at a time when US President Donald Trump has threatened to tear up a 2015 deal curbing Iran's nuclear abilities and who last month alarmed delegates at the UN General Assembly by warning he may be forced to "totally destroy" North Korea over Pyongyang's atomic weapons programme.

ICAN "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," said Norwegian Nobel committee president Berit Reiss-Andersen in announcing the prize in Oslo.

"We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time," she said.

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 on the fringes of an international conference on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, ICAN (the International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) has mobilised campaigners 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.

ICAN, a coalition of hundreds of NGOs, says its main objective is the adoption of an international treaty banning nuclear weapons, along the lines of earlier agreements forbidding the use of biological and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions.

Reacting to its win, ICAN said the "moment is now" to push for a total nuclear arms ban.

"This prize is a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who... 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 said in a statement.

ICAN's high-profile supporters include form UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama.

- Atomic tensions -

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 -- the number of nuclear-armed nations has grown.

Friday's award -- the climax to a week of prize-giving honouring the world's leading lights in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine and literature -- comes as Iran's nuclear deal is under increasing pressure from Trump.

The US leader has threatened to bin the agreement altogether, saying Tehran is developing missiles that may be used to deliver a nuclear warhead when the deal's restrictions are lifted in 2025.

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.

"This is a time of great global tension, when fiery rhetoric could all too easily lead us, inexorably, to unspeakable horror," ICAN said.

- 'Good omen' -

The UN welcomed ICAN's win on Friday, with spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci telling reporters in Geneva that the prize was a "good omen" for the ratification of a nuclear ban treaty.

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."

The Nobel committee has rewarded anti-nuclear weapons drives on several previous occasions, handing out the prestigious prize to Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov in 1975, the international non-proliferation IPPNW group in 1985, and the IAEA's then head Mohamed ElBaradei 20 years later.

More than 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.


Rebels evacuate Syria's Eastern Ghouta

Sarkozy says life ‘living hell’ since corruption allegations

Turkey’s largest media group to be sold to Erdogan ally

Hezbollah leader says debt threatens Lebanon disaster

Exiled Syrian doctors treat refugees in Turkey

In world first, flight to Israel crosses Saudi airspace

Saudi, US must pursue 'urgent efforts' for Yemen peace: Mattis

US, Jordan launch new counterterrorism training centre

Two Hamas security force members killed in raid on bomb suspect

Turkey gives watchdog power to block internet broadcasts

EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s ‘illegal’ actions in Mediterranean

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria

US warns Turkey over civilians caught in Syria assault

Saudi crown prince keen to cement ties with US

Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel 'son of a dog'

Erdogan vows to expand Syria op to other Kurdish-held areas

Kurdish envoy accuses foreign powers of ignoring Turkish war crimes

Morocco authorities vow to close Jerada's abandoned mines

Israeli soldier sees manslaughter sentence slashed

Turkey insists no plans to remain in Afrin

Cairo voters show unwavering support for native son Sisi

Forum in Jordan explores new teaching techniques

Gaza Strip woes receive renewed attention but no fix is expected

Kurds, Syrian opposition condemn Afrin looting