OSLO – Nuclear disarmament group International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its decade-long campaign to rid the world of the atomic bomb at a time when nuclear-fueled crises deepen around North Korea and Iran.
More than 70 years since atomic bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Nobel committee sought to highlight ICAN’s tireless non-proliferation efforts.
The decision sends a strong message to U.S. President Donald Trump, who has threatened to tear up a 2015 deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program and who last month alarmed delegates at the U.N. General Assembly by warning he may be forced to “totally destroy” North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
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 groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons,” said Norwegian Nobel committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen, 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.”
In a statement after the announcement, ICAN called the award “a tribute … 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.”
Founded in Vienna in 2007 on the fringes of an international conference on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, ICAN has mobilized campaigners and celebrities alike in its cause.
It was a key player in the adoption of a historic nuclear weapons ban treaty, signed by 122 countries in July. However, the accord was largely symbolic, as none of the nine known world nuclear powers joined. Japan, one of the countries that rely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, was also absent.
The coalition of hundreds of organizations, including Japan’s Peace Boat, says its main objective is the adoption of an international treaty banning nuclear weapons.
“A global ban on nuclear weapons is long overdue,” the organization says on its website.
Despite July’s success, ICAN is not resting on its laurels. “We’re not done yet. … The job isn’t done until nuclear weapons are gone,” ICAN chief Beatrice Fihn said this week.
Survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Friday congratulated ICAN on winning this year’s 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 public broadcaster NHK.
“I want to offer my warmest congratulations,” said the longtime 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 former U.S. 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.
Aging survivors of the atomic bombing of the two cities have long spearheaded an anti-nuclear campaign, visiting the U.N. and other international conferences to narrate the horror of the tragedies.
On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing 140,000 people, according to estimates. Three days later, a second bomb devastated Nagasaki, killing an estimated 74,000 people.
Japan surrendered shortly afterward, bringing World War II to an end.
Meanwhile, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the former Soviet Union, hailed the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN, saying it reinforces the position he and late U.S. President Ronald Reagan took at the Reykjavik summit a generation ago.
Gorbachev, who has himself campaigned against nuclear weapons since leaving office in 1991, said he was “very worried that military doctrines again allow the use of nuclear weapons.
He added in a statement: “I would like to remind about a joint statement we signed with Ronald Reagan: A nuclear war can’t be won and must never be fought.”
Although the 1986 Reykjavik meeting collapsed at the last minute, it led to the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty that banned all land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 km (310 and 3,410 miles).