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Are governments impervious to public opinion?

November 8, 2017

The reckless threats of nuclear war flung back and forth between the North Korean and US governments remind me of an event in which I participated back in the fall of 1961, when I was a senior at Columbia College.

At the end of August 1961, the Soviet government had announced that it was withdrawing from the US-Soviet-British moratorium on nuclear weapons testing that had halted such tests for the previous three years while the three governments tried to agree on a test ban treaty. Read more…

Should limiting North Korea’s nuclear ambitions be the responsibility of the US government?

October 31, 2017

In recent months, advances in the North Korean government’s nuclear weapons program have led to a sharp confrontation between the government leaders of the United States and of North Korea. This August, President Donald Trump declared that any more threats from North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” In turn, Kim Jong Un remarked that he was now contemplating firing nuclear missiles at the US territory of Guam. Heightening the dispute, Trump told the United Nations in mid-September that, if the United States was forced to defend itself or its allies, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Soon thereafter, Trump embellished this with a tweet declaring that North Korea “won’t be around much longer.” Read more…

ICAN statement on receiving 2017 Nobel Peace Prize

October 6, 2017

[The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has issued the following statement in response to the announcement that the campaign has been awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.]

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 7 July 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. Read more…

Statement of the Norwegian Nobel Committee

October 6, 2017

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). 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.

We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time. Some states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and there is 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. Through binding international agreements, the international community has previously adopted prohibitions against land mines, cluster munitions and biological and chemical weapons. Nuclear weapons are even more destructive, but have not yet been made the object of a similar international legal prohibition.

Through its work, ICAN has helped to fill this legal gap. An important argument in the rationale for prohibiting nuclear weapons is the unacceptable human suffering that a nuclear war will cause. ICAN is a coalition of non-governmental organizations from around 100 different countries around the globe. The coalition has been 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. To date, 108 states have made such a commitment, known as the Humanitarian Pledge.

Furthermore, ICAN has been the leading civil society actor in the endeavour to achieve a prohibition of nuclear weapons under international law. On 7 July 2017, 122 of the UN member states acceded to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. As soon as the treaty has been ratified by 50 states, the ban on nuclear weapons will enter into force and will be binding under international law for all the countries that are party to the treaty.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee is aware that an international legal prohibition will not in itself eliminate a single nuclear weapon, and that so far neither the states that already have nuclear weapons nor their closest allies support the nuclear weapon ban treaty. The Committee wishes to emphasize that the next steps towards attaining a world free of nuclear weapons 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. Five of the states that currently have nuclear weapons – the USA, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China – have already committed to this objective through their accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1970. The Non-Proliferation Treaty will remain the primary international legal instrument for promoting nuclear disarmament and preventing the further spread of such weapons.

It is now 71 years since the UN General Assembly, in its very first resolution, advocated the importance of nuclear disarmament and a nuclear weapon-free world. With this year’s award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to pay tribute to ICAN for giving new momentum to the efforts to achieve this goal.

The decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has a solid grounding in Alfred Nobel’s will. The will specifies three different criteria for awarding the Peace Prize: the promotion of fraternity between nations, the advancement of disarmament and arms control and the holding and promotion of peace congresses. ICAN works vigorously to achieve nuclear disarmament. ICAN and a majority of UN member states have contributed to fraternity between nations by supporting the Humanitarian Pledge. And through its inspiring and innovative support for the UN negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons, ICAN has played a major part in bringing about what in our day and age is equivalent to an international peace congress.

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.

Oslo, 6 October 2017

Read more…

2017 Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN is wake up call to humanity

October 6, 2017

Breaking news

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Announcement and explanation of award at nobelpeaceprize.org

In honoring the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) as this year’s Nobel Peace Laureate, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has reaffirmed that prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons is the most urgent security priority of our time. Read more…

A negotiated curbing of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities is good, but not good enough

October 3, 2017

The North Korean government’s progress toward developing a long-range nuclear weapons capability, accompanied by bellicose pronouncements, has been alarming enough to spark worldwide public dismay and new sanctions by a unanimous UN Security Council. But even if, at the very best, sanctions (which, so far, have not worked) or diplomatic negotiations (which have yet to get underway) produce a change in North Korea’s policy, that change is likely to be no more than a freeze in the regime’s nuclear weapons program.

And that will leave us with a very dangerous world, indeed. Read more…

Why the new treaty banning nuclear weapons is important and how it can be used

October 2, 2017

[The following article, originally published in Australia by Power to Persuade, a discussion blog and annual symposium focused on social policy, is reposted here with permission.]

Sue Wareham holds copy of Ban Treaty during ICAN Australia action at the Foreign Affairs Department in Canberra in September.

In my first article about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (the Treaty), published on Power to Persuade on 28 July, I described how the Treaty came about, how it is based in humanitarian and human rights norms, what’s in it, and that the next step would be the opening for signature at the UN in New York on 20 September 2017.

Because the Treaty text was adopted only on 7 July, it had to be squeezed into an extra early morning slot during ‘leaders’ week’, the opening week of the new annual UN General Assembly (UNGA) session, when many heads of government and state and foreign ministers are in town. So many were keen to sign at this earliest possible opportunity that each was allocated just one minute for the formal signature on behalf of their nation. Read more…

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