This article was originally published by The Hill.
The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize does not go to a politician or political leader. In fact, it does not single out any individual. Rather, it goes to a campaign, the International Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), composed of more than 450 civil society organizations in some 100 countries around the globe. It goes to a broad base of civil society organizations working in coalition to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.
In this sense, the award goes to the extraordinary people (“We, the People…”) throughout the world who have stepped up to end the threat to all humanity posed by the nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons still remaining on the planet.
In announcing the award to ICAN, the Norwegian Nobel Committee stated, “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.”
ICAN was launched in 2007. It worked with many of the world’s countries in organizing three conferences on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war. These meetings took place in Oslo, Norway (2013), in Nayarit, Mexico (2014) and in Vienna, Austria (2014). At the Vienna conference, Austria offered a pledge to the countries and civil society representatives in attendance. When it was opened for signatures to other countries, it became known as the “Humanitarian Pledge.” The pledge has now been formally endorsed by 127 countries.
After laying out the threats and dangers of nuclear weapons in the Humanitarian Pledge, the pledge concluded: “We pledge to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders, States, international organizations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements, parliamentarians and civil society, in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks.”
In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly agreed to an ICAN-supported resolution to negotiate a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. These negotiations took place in March, June and July of 2017 at the United Nations in New York. On July 7, 2017, 122 countries adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This treaty banning nuclear weapons was opened for signatures on September 20, 2017. So far, 53 countries have signed the treaty and three have ratified it. It will enter into force 90 days after the 50th country deposits its ratification of the treaty with the United Nations.
ICAN has accomplished a great deal in moving the world forward toward banning and eliminating nuclear weapons. It has helped states articulate the dreadful humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use. In doing so, it has worked with survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and also with countries that suffered from nuclear testing, such as the Marshall Islands.
ICAN also spearheaded the drafting and adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and is currently working on getting countries to sign and ratify the treaty so that it can enter into force.
ICAN stands in stark contrast with those national leaders and their allies who possess nuclear weapons and have been unwilling to give up their claim on them for their own perceived national security. But ICAN is on the right side of history, because those with nuclear weapons threaten the future of civilization, including their own populations.
ICAN well deserves the Nobel Peace prize. The campaign is effective. It is youthful. It is hopeful. It is necessary. May the Nobel Peace Prize propel it to even greater accomplishments. And may it awaken people everywhere to the threat posed by nuclear weapons, and the need to ban and eliminate them.
David Krieger is a founder and president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. The Foundation has been a partner organization of ICAN since 2007.