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This Anti-Nuclear Group Just Won the Nobel Peace Prize

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

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

The decision was made to “draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons”, according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, and for the campaign’s “groundbreaking efforts” to achieve a treaty-based ban on nuclear weapons.

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"We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Nobel committee, referring to the escalating tension between North Korea and the US.

ICAN is a coalition of hundreds of nonprofit organisations, based in Geneva, Switzerland, that has been instrumental to advancing the negotiations that resulted in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons — agreed at the UN this July.

States that have signed the treaty can’t develop or possess nuclear weapons in any way, or even hold them in their territory for other countries. But before the treaty comes into force, it must be officially ratified, which means consented to, by at least 50 countries — something the campaign itself has said might take years. Despite being signed by 53 UN member states, so far just three have ratified it: Guyana, the Vatican and Thailand.

The campaign was launched a decade ago, and has 468 partner organisations in 101 different countries. It’s defining moment was the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the very first legally binding agreement to ban the weapons, endorsed by 122 countries. However, not a single country that actually possesses nuclear weapons has signed the treaty — or even turned up for talks.

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The Nobel Peace Prize announcement therefore sends a powerful message to the nine countries that boycotted the negotiations: Britain, France, Israel, China, Russia, India, Pakistan, North Korea and the US.

Last month, President Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea in a fiery speech to the UN general assembly. Meanwhile North Korea’s Foreign Minister, Ri Yong-ho, has stated that Kim Jong Un, his leader, sees Trump’s comments as a “declaration of war”, adding that they now had the right to shoot down American warplanes, even over international water.

Beatrice Fihn, ICAN’s executive director, has previously called Trump a “moron” on Twitter, and reiterated to Reuters that “having nuclear weapons, possessing nuclear weapons, developing nuclear weapons, is illegal, and they need to stop.”

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