The Nobel Peace Prize: It’s a huge honour for anyone who receives it! Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Malala, Martin Luther King… you aren’t awarded the prize for nothing. In 2017, the Nobel Committee awarded the prize to a campaign closely related to PAX: ICAN, the international coalition for the abolishment of nuclear weapons. For many years, PAX has been working towards an international ban on nuclear weapons and is one of ICAN’s international partners.
An end to nuclear weapons?
The Nobel Committee selected ICAN due to their work on nuclear disarmament and their global campaign for an international ban on nuclear weapons. “In their work towards nuclear disarmament, ICAN has always drawn attention to the consequences of nuclear weapons for ordinary people, for instance by drawing attention to the stories of people who have survived the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and nuclear tests.” The Nobel Committee acknowledged the danger that nuclear weapons pose: “Nuclear weapons pose a permanent threat to humanity and life on earth.”
“The story of nuclear weapons will have an ending, and it is up to us what that ending will be. Will it be the end of nuclear weapons, or will it be the end of us?”
ICAN executive director Beatrice Fihn at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony
Winning the prize was an enormous recognition for ICAN as a whole, and for PAX as well. In 2017, ICAN saw some extremely good results. After years of campaigning, at the beginning of the summer, 120 countries passed the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Before this, PAX put the ‘Sign Against Nuclear Weapons’ citizens’ initiative in the Netherlands on the agenda of the Dutch parliament. Many people used the campaign to express their opposition to nuclear weapons. This led to the Netherlands being the only NATO country to be present at the talks about the wording of the treaty.The Netherlands was also the only country to vote against the treaty, partly due to their position as a NATO member country.On 20 September 2017, the first countries signed the treaty at the UN.
International cooperation is essential
Despite the promising victory against nuclear weapons, the fight is getting even more vicious. Although fewer and fewer countries possess nuclear weapons, the countries that do have them, such as the USA, are using increasingly fanatic language and appear more willing than ever to use nuclear weapons. The financial world also continues to make huge investments in nuclear weapons. But we’re far from giving up.Recently, ABP, the largest pension fund in the Netherlands, announced that they are going to stop investing in nuclear weapons. We are urging financial investors to follow this example. We will also continue trying to persuade the Dutch government to sign the UN treaty.
Jan Gruiters, PAX’s former General Director: “The Nobel Committee acknowledges that the international nuclear weapons ban is the correct step to take. Rather than threats and deterrents, international cooperation is essential for preventing the distribution of weapons of mass destruction. PAX calls on the Dutch government to sign the treaty as soon as possible.”
The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony can be viewed at YouTube.
The full text of the speeches by ICAN executive director Beatrice Fihn and Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow, who received the price on behalf of ICAN, can be found here.