December 10th, marks the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death and is observed as the day laureates are awarded their Nobel Prize at the ceremony in Olso, Norway. This year, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. According to the Nobel Prize’s website, ICAN was awarded “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 is a coalition of non-governmental organizations that seeks to ban nuclear weapons. Currently, nuclear weapons are not prohibited in any form, unlike other forms of weapons that have the capacity to cause tremendous ecological harm, such as chemical weapons and biological weapons.
One of the ICAN’s biggest milestones of the year was an adoption of the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by the United Nations. This treaty was meant to be the first step to completely eliminate nuclear weapons. However, subsequent negotiations would be needed for the phasing out of these weapons of mass destruction. The vote through text passed with an overwhelming majority of 122 to 1, with 69 nations abstaining, including all nuclear weapon states. It was opened for signature on September 20th. The Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will enter into legal effect once at least 50 countries have signed and ratified it.
One of the major arguments for those that are against the prohibition of nuclear weapons is the necessity for deterrence. Nuclear armed nations argue that the threat of nuclear attack is what prevents total nuclear annihilation. For instance, the United States is planning to spend 1.2 trillion dollars to maintain and expand their nuclear arsenal. However, ICAN insists that a nuclear war has only been avoided due to “good fortune,” stating multiple events in which a full deployment almost occurred due to miscommunication between nuclear weapon states. The executive director of ICAN, Beatrice Fihn, asserted that “a moment of panic could lead to the destruction of cities and the deaths of millions of civilians” from nuclear weapons. Furthermore, with the culmination of tension on the Korean Peninsula this year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists marked the Doomsday Clock at two and a half minutes until midnight, the closest since the early 1980s. The Doomsday Clock, which was has existed since 1947, was created to predict the likeliness of a global catastrophe, such as a nuclear war, the crisis being at midnight. With the global community being so close to a full-scale war, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons amongst other groups fight to secure a nuclear armament-free future.
Information for this article was taken from Nobelprize.org, the British Broadcasting Corporation, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.