How an Australian-born grassroots movement won the Nobel Peace Prize

How an Australian-born grassroots movement won the Nobel Peace Prize

A global movement to ban nuclear weapons, which started in Melbourne in 2007, has  received the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, now based in Geneva, is a coalition of grassroots non-government groups in 100 countries and has fought for a global treaty banning nuclear weapons. It is the first Australian Nobel Laureat for Peace, recognised for it “groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition”.

“We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time,” the leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Berit Reiss-­Andersen said.

A founding member of ICAN, Dimity Hawkins, spoke to the media from Melbourne on Sunday.

“These weapons are at the root of everything that is insecure about the world. At the time of the launch (in 2007) things were going backwards in terms of disarmament diplomacy and we needed to step it up.”

In July this year  122 countries signed a UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, the first legally binding international agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons. But the signatories do not include any of the nuclear powers, nor many of their close allies.

This was replicated at the award ceremony in Norway on Sunday in what was described an “ambassador boycott“. Russia was the only declared nuclear power with a top diplomat present.

ICAN says the boycott amounts to some Western powers undermining the movement’s work. In October when the prize was announced ICAN executive director Beatrice Fihn told The Guardian she was disappointed the Australian Prime Minister failed to mention the victory.

“Australia claims to be committed to a world without nuclear weapons and here’s an Australian-born campaign that has won the Nobel peace prize for the fight against nuclear weapons; it seems a bit silly that they can’t even congratulate us,” Fihn said.

Australia has refused to support the ban treaty and prefers to rely on the protection of the United States nuclear umbrella and the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

ICAN argues that global nonproliferation has failed and has written an open letter to Malcolm Turnbull urging him to sign the global treaty.

Disarmament remains the goal ICAN is determined to reach – until the weapons are gone ICAN will keep fighting.

“Nuclear weapons have the risk of literally ending the world,” Fihn said. “As long as they exist, the risk will be there, and eventually our luck will run out.”

She says the standoff between America and North Korea is a “a wake-up call” about the urgency of disarming the 15,000  ­nuclear weapons that exist.

In accepting the prize in Oslo Fihn said the world is “one impulsive tantrum” away from a nuclear catastrophe. She urged the United States to sign the treaty that provides a choice.

“Will it be the end of nuclear weapons? Or will it be the end of us? One of these things will happen.”


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