Article 36 – International Steering Group member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

6 October 2017, London

The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded today to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

This award gives added momentum to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted at the United Nations by more than 120 states on 7 July 2017.

ICAN has campaigned and worked in partnership with governments and the International Committee of the Red Cross for the development of this international legal treaty which prohibits nuclear weapons.  In doing do, the treaty puts nuclear weapons on the same footing as the other weapons of mass destruction – chemical and biological weapons – that were already prohibited through specific legal instruments.

“The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize highlights the importance of this new treaty at a time when the threat of nuclear weapons is more pressing than ever in recent decades.  ICAN focused attention on the humanitarian impact that the use of these weapons would cause – with just a single weapon threatening to kill and injure hundreds of thousands of people and to poison their environment for the future.  Despite the politics of these weapons, the scale of humanitarian suffering that they can cause means they cannot be considered acceptable”, said Richard Moyes, Managing Director of UK NGO Article 36 – part of ICAN’s International Steering Group.

The treaty needs to be ratified by 50 countries in order to come into force.  The Peace Prize award should provide a boost to the process of securing those ratifications over the years ahead.

The treaty was strongly opposed by those states that currently possess nuclear weapons, including by the UK.  However, their opposition could not stop it from being adopted.  A significant number of states do not trust the claims of nuclear possessors to be working for disarmament when actually they are modernizing their nuclear arsenals.

As well as making it clear that nuclear weapons are illegal, the treaty also contains positive obligations to address the needs of victims of nuclear weapon use and testing and to address environmental contamination that has been caused.  Survivors of the nuclear weapon attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and of testing, including aboriginal survivors of UK nuclear weapon testing in Australia, participated in the treaty negotiations – even whilst their governments boycotted discussions.

“This new treaty is a first step towards a different international conversation about nuclear weapons.  It is clear we cannot continue with the kinds of brinkmanship that threaten hundreds of thousands of lives at the very least.  The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize award will help to ensure that, over time, these weapons are recognized as illegal by all,” said Moyes.

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Image: Norwegian Nobel Committee

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