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"Forget the Rest" blog



Nobel Peace Prize Goes to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

Landmark Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons Bans Research, Possession, Use, Nuclear Deterrence

Supported by most of world’s countries; 53 signatures in first two weeks

Contact: Greg Mello, 505-265-1200 (office), 505-577-8563

Ray Acheson: 212-682-1265 (office, Reaching Critical Will), 917-442-5214 (cell)

Permanent link (by 11:45 am) * Previous press releases * ICAN's statement in response to the award * Treaty * Statement of Nobel Committee

New material, 11:30 am MDT

Ray Acheson of Reaching Critical Will (RCW) has played a central intellectual and administrative role throughout the negotiations leading up to the new Treaty. Ray’s daily diplomatic analyses and reports are “must-reads” in the diplomatic community. Ms Acheson:

This treaty is an incredible new piece of international law, achieved despite the opposition of the most militarised and powerful countries in the world. It marks a turning point in the struggle against these genocidal weapons, in which the vast majority of governments and civil society have united to create law that can change policies and practices of nuclear deterrence and help facilitate nuclear disarmament.

ICAN's advocacy and partnership with governments has been instrumental in the creation of this treaty. It clearly demonstrates that cooperative security, and collaboration and trust between stakeholders, is the only way forward.

Mia Gandenberger began her first serious nuclear disarmament citizen diplomacy in 2003, when she was 14 years old, and has worked steadily on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation in Geneva, Vienna, Albuquerque (summer, 2013), and New York since then, mostly for RCW as top-notch diplomatic reporter. Ms. Gandenberger:

Awarding the Nobel Peace Price to ICAN sends the right signal at a time where militarised rhetorics threaten nuclear destruction and is an immensely important reminder of the shared goal of a nuclear weapon free world. 

ICAN has worked through its great network of grassroots organisations like the Study Group working in their national contexts and effectively combining it with tireless diplomacy on the international level to achieve the long needed prohibition of these weapons. This recognition of all those involved is more than deserved.

Study Group director Greg Mello: “It is hard to imagine that the partnership and trust between civil society and the diplomatic community which produced this Treaty could have developed without Ray and Mia’s endless yeoman work and selfless professionalism, carried out over many years. In their work and in the work of ICAN more generally, we saw again and again a model of leadership that has been largely missing in the US arms control and disarmament scene, one where it was normal and natural to subordinate personal and organizational interests to larger goals.

“Equally important were the expert staff of the UN, who labored skillfully and tirelessly behind the scenes to produce this Treaty. We cannot thank them enough.”

Remarks on the Treaty’s international context

Mello: “This Treaty and well-deserved award[1] illustrate a sad retreat by the US from ideals of peace in world affairs. The US, with its Western allies, fought against the creation of this Treaty. They are still fighting against it. Meanwhile North Korea voted FOR negotiating the treaty, the only nuclear weapon state to do so.

“In its foreign policies, the US is increasingly operating outside of and in violation of international norms, undercutting its so-called “soft power” and ceding leadership in world affairs. The “American Century” is ending. Can we navigate the transition to a multi-polar world, without nuclear war? This Treaty increases our chances of survival.  

“One cannot properly understand this new Treaty apart from its historical context in a world of converging existential crises that demand very different approaches to security than those championed by the nuclear weapon states. That is the message of this Treaty and the Nobel Committee: nuclear armaments cannot provide security. Nuclear modernization – arms racing by another name – can only lead to disaster. The first casualties of nuclear militarism are domestic, here in the US and UK. We need to invest in people, in the rising generations and the protection of climate and of nature, not weapons.

“The US and Russia hold 93% of the world’s nuclear weapons. To prevent a world-ending nuclear war, there is nothing more important than for US leaders and news media to stop vilifying and goading Russia. As one independent investigation after another has shown[2], there is no factual basis for so-called 'Russia-gate.' We have to stop 'the new McCarthyism in its tracks' and get on with the project of building positive relations with both Russia and China. The new Treaty will be dead, as we and everyone else will be dead, if we don’t.”

Remarks on the Treaty’s New Mexico context –  

Mello: “New Mexico must let go of World War II and the Manhattan Project, both in the State’s identity and in its political loyalties. Identification with “The Bomb” has been profoundly injurious. It has not brought economic development, as the data abundantly show. Quite the reverse.

“There is also a message in this Treaty for young people who may be thinking of working in the nuclear weapons business. Namely, don’t.

“Do not imagine that nuclear weapons labs – especially Los Alamos, built where it was for reasons of isolation, not integration – can be, after seven decades, magically transformed into something else. They can’t be. They are too specialized, too isolated (in the case of Los Alamos), too contaminated, and have far too much overhead. Nuclear weapons missions dominate lab culture and management, as they must if they are to ‘succeed.’  

“The investments we need are outside the labs, where government dollars can attract many other private dollars, and where they can create economically productive investments that benefit the society. Spending pallets of money on new nuclear weapons is, economically speaking, more or less like paying a few people to incinerate it. Nothing useful is produced.”


Albuquerque, New York, Geneva – This morning, the Nobel Committee in Oslo awarded (video) the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for its successful efforts to bring to life a treaty that bans all aspects of nuclear weapons.

ICAN is an international campaign of, at present, 468 organizations in over 100 countries.

Study Group Director Greg Mello: “The treaty is a truly historic achievement. It was brought into being by a remarkable global ‘partnership of the generations,’ adroitly managed by ICAN on a shoestring budget, with the heavy lifting done by its team of outstanding citizen diplomats, mostly based outside the US. It was also a partnership between the diplomatic community and civil society, made possible by courage and mutual professionalism.

“It is the first true multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty ever successfully negotiated. All other extant multilateral treaties deal primarily or exclusively with preventing proliferation.

“We are proud to have been a part of this effort. The work of Ray Acheson and her colleague Mia Gandenberger, both on our board of directors, in supporting these fruitful efforts for several years bears special recognition.”

The Treaty prohibits developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, possessing, stockpiling and deploying nuclear weapons, transferring or receiving them from others, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, allowing any stationing or deployment of nuclear weapons on national territories of signatories, and assisting, encouraging, or inducing any of these prohibited acts. The Treaty requires each signatory state to develop "legal, administrative and other measures, including the imposition of penal sanctions, to prevent and suppress" these prohibited activities.

The Treaty will enter in force 90 days after at least 50 countries have ratified it.  The Treaty can be amended at regular or extraordinary meetings of signatories by a two-thirds majority. 

The Treaty was concluded on July 7 of this year ("Historic Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons Adopted at United Nations," Jul 7, 2017). It was the product of negotiations that began in March (“US, Allies, Stage Protest Outside UN General Assembly Hall as Nations Gather in Unprecedented Meeting to Ban Nuclear Weapons,” Mar 27, 2017). The negotiations and Treaty fulfill a General Assembly mandate passed last December (“In Historic Vote, UN General Assembly Mandates 2017 Negotiations to Ban Research, Development, Testing, Stockpiling, Use of Nuclear Weapons,” Dec 23, 2016). In the summer of 2016, elements of a possible treaty were discussed at length in Geneva by a special Open-Ended Working Group involving most of the world's countries (“UN Disarmament Working Group Calls for 2017 Negotiations to Ban Nuclear Weapons,” Aug 19, 2016). These meetings were the result of years of efforts by civil society and leading states.

Further background can be found at our web page devoted to this process, as well as from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and that of Reaching Critical Will.


[1] This award may mark a return of the Nobel Peace Prize to its original intent. See David Swanson’s interesting remarks today on the campaign to return the Nobel Peace Prize to Nobel’s original will (“Is the Nobel Committee Finally Abiding by Nobel’s Will?”).

[2] For a review, see the archive at Consortium News.

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