Peace prize win a surprise
Nobel nod for anti-nuke group
OSLO: THE Norwegian Nobel Committee, warning of the rising risk of nuclear war and the spread of weapons to North Korea, has awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to a littleknown group seeking a global ban on nuclear arms.
Yesterday’s award for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican) was unexpected, particularly in a year when the architects of the 2015 nuclear deal between international powers and Iran had been seen as favourites for achieving the sort of diplomatic breakthrough that has won the prize in the past.
Still, supporters saw it as a potential breakthrough for a global movement that has fought to ban nuclear arms from the day the first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in August 1945.
Ican executive director Beatrice Fihn said the group was elated.
Asked if she had a message for North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, who has tested nuclear arms in defiance of global pressure, and President Donald Trump, who has threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea to protect the US and its allies, she said both leaders needed to know the weapons were illegal.
“Nuclear weapons are illegal. Threatening to use nuclear weapons is illegal. Having nuclear weapons, possessing nuclear weapons, developing nuclear weapons, is illegal, and they need to stop.”
Fihn said Trump’s impulsive character illustrated the importance of banning nuclear arms for all countries.
“A man you can bait with a tweet seems to be taking irrational decisions very quickly and not listening to expertise; it just puts a spotlight on what do nuclear weapons really mean. There are no right hands for the wrong weapons,” she said.
Ican describes itself as a coalition of grass- roots non-governmental groups in more than 100 nations. It began in Australia and was officially launched in Vienna in 2007.
“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, the leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
“Some states are modernising their nuclear arsenals and there is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea.”
The award was hailed by anti- nuclear campaigners around the world. Mikiso Iwasa, 88, a Hiroshima survivor, said the prize would help push the movement forward.
“It is wonderful we have this Nobel Peace Prize-winning movement. All of us need to join forces, think hard and walk forward together to turn this momentum into something even bigger.”
The prize seeks to bolster the case of disarmament amid nuclear tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, as well as uncertainty over the fate of the 2015 deal between Iran and major powers to limit Tehran’s nuclear programme.
The committee raised eyebrows with its decision to award the prize to an international campaign group with a relatively low profile, rather than recognising the Iran deal, a complex agreement hammered out over years of highstakes diplomacy.
“Norwegian Nobel Committee has its own ways but the nuclear agreement with Iran achieved something real and would have deserved a prize,” tweeted Carl Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister who has held top posts as an international diplomat.
The Iran accord, which Trump has repeatedly called “the worst deal ever negotiated”, is seen as under particular threat this week. A senior administration official said on Thursday Trump was expected to decertify Iran’s compliance, a step towards potentially unwinding the pact.
The committee might have been reluctant to reward the Iranian government for its role in the nuclear deal because the only Iranian winner, 2003 laureate Shrin Ebadi, a lawyer and human rights campaigner, is forced to live in exile.
“I think the committee has thought about the human rights situation in Iran. It would have been difficult to explain the prize even though it has a favourable view of the Iran deal,” historian Asle Sveen said.
The committee denied giving the prize to an anti-nuclear group was intended either as a rebuke to Trump or as a snub to the architects of the Iran nuclear deal.
“The Iran treaty is a positive development, a disarmament development that is positive, but the reason we mentioned North Korea (in our statement) is a reference to the threat that people actually feel,” Reiss-Andersen said. – Reuters
Ican executive director Beatrice Fihn.