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Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to Anti-Nuclear Weapons Group

  • Henry Ridgwell

Sascha Hach, right, and Xanthe Hall of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons ICAN Germany, pose in their office in Berlin, Oct. 6, 2017.

The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the Geneva-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN. The group consists of about 500 organizations in more than 100 countries that are working toward global nuclear disarmament.

In announcing the award, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, said the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was performing vital work.

“Some states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals and there is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea.”

ICAN's executive director, Beatrice Fihn, said she hopes the prize sends a clear message to nuclear states.

“You can't threaten to indiscriminately slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians in the name of security.”

The award, worth $1.1 million, is widely seen as a political statement at a time of high geopolitical uncertainty.

Pyongyang's series of nuclear and weapons tests this year has shaken the global security order.

This past week, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to end the 2015 Iran nuclear deal accusing Tehran of failing to live up to the “spirit of the agreement.” Critics fear knock-on effects.

“If the U.S. proves itself to be an unreliable negotiating partner, I think North Korea would have no incentive really to engage in any sort of discussion about its nuclear program,” says Paulina Izewicz of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The world’s two biggest nuclear powers, the United States and Russia, are reducing their stockpiles of atomic weapons under the 2010 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

“The two sides are inspecting each other’s arsenals, they’re reducing warheads, delivery vehicles,” noted Heather Williams of Kings College London; however, she adds that a Cold War-era agreement on intermediate range weapons is at a breaking point.

“Russia is now deploying forces that are pretty flagrant violations of it.”

WATCH: Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Wins Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel committee praised ICAN's efforts toward securing the 2017 U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. A total of 122 nations adopted the deal — but none of the nine known nuclear powers signed up.

“One of the flaws with the treaty is that it doesn’t address the reasons that states have nuclear weapons in the first place. Why does Pakistan want nuclear weapons? Why does India?” says Williams.

Nearly three decades after the end of the Cold War, the debate between disarmament versus deterrence is still being fought.

“The deterrence camp views the disarmament camp as idealistic dreamers, completely unrealistic. And the disarmament camp looks at the deterrence people as morally deficient. So as a consequence, having the Nobel Peace Prize in the mix, I worry that it will not be helpful to bridging that divide,” says Izewicz.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons says winning the Nobel prize “shines a needed light” on the pathway toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

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