This week the world’s most prestigious prize for peace, the Nobel Peace Prize, has been awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). This award will help shine a light on the passion and commitment of this worldwide movement to abolish nuclear weapons. It will also draw attention to the goals ICAN has enthusiastically sought to achieve. First, a public awakening of concern for the dangers to humankind and to all that each of us loves and treasures posed by nuclear weapons. Second, the entry into force of the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Third, the abolition of nuclear weapons.
ICAN has brought considerable youthful energy to the issue of nuclear disarmament. It also operates as a global campaign involving some 400 civil society organizations from more than 100 countries. The campaign began ten years ago, and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) was one of its initial members. We’ve been a part of the campaign from the beginning. We are proud to stand with the other civil society groups throughout the world in working with ICAN to achieve its goals, which are also our goals.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was drafted by states with the participation of civil society. On July 7, 2017 it was adopted by 122 countries. The treaty bans, among other things, the possession, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons. NAPF lobbied for the treaty to include “threat of use” as well as “use” of the weapons. Rick Wayman, our Director of Programs, delivered a speech at the United Nations treaty drafting meeting arguing this point, and it was adopted in the final text. On September 20, 2017, the treaty was opened for signature at the United Nations. Fifty countries signed the first day and subsequently three more countries have signed the treaty.
The treaty will enter into force 90 days after the fiftieth country ratifies it. So far, there are three ratifications. ICAN will be working to see that the treaty gets more signatures and ratifications, including the support of the nine nuclear-armed countries, which boycotted the treaty negotiations. On the day the treaty was adopted, the U.S., UK and France issued a joint statement in which they said, “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become a party to it.” ICAN represents the will of the people to pass the planet on intact to new generations, while the nuclear-armed countries reflect an outdated concept of security in which they are willing to threaten the future of civilization for their own misguided concepts of security.
In the mid-1980s, there were 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world. Today there are just under 15,000. ICAN’s goal and NAPF’s goal is a world with zero nuclear weapons. This must also become the goal of all humanity. The great hope in the Nobel Peace Prize going to ICAN is that it will help draw global attention and concern to the ongoing threats posed by nuclear weapons and tip the scales toward ending the nuclear weapons era with its abundant dangers to all humanity.