International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday to an international watchdog that campaigns to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) won "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," the Nobel committee said in a statement.

The prize was awarded by a committee of five people chosen by Norway's parliament.

It comes as the United States and North Korea are engaged in a tense standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear program, and as speculation intensifies that President Trump could be preparing to abandon a two-year-old nuclear deal with Iran.

Berit Reiss-Anderson, the Nobel committee's chair, called on nuclear-armed nations to use all diplomatic means available to work to eliminate the weapons and specifically mentioned the North Korea crisis. "We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time," she said.

Last year's accolade was given to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos "for his resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end."

ICAN is an umbrella group comprised of hundreds of non-governmental organizations in more than 100 countries that push for global nuclear disarmament. It was founded in Melbourne, Australia, 10 years ago, but is now based in Geneva, Switzerland.

It becomes the 27th organization between 1901 and 2017 to win the $1.1 million prize. Other recipients include the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (in 1954 and 1981) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (in 1917, 1944 and 1963.). In 2015, the National Dialogue Quartet scooped the prize for its contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia.

Beatrice Fihn, ICAN's executive director, told reporters Friday after the announcement that the prize "sends a message to all nuclear-armed states and all states that continue to rely on nuclear weapons for security that it is unacceptable behavior." 

"We can’t threaten to indiscriminately slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians in the name of security. That’s not how you build security," she added.

"We are trying to send very strong signals to all states with nuclear arms, nuclear-armed states — North Korea, U.S., Russia, China, France, U.K., Israel, all of them, India, Pakistan — it is unacceptable to threaten to kill civilians."

Anyone can get nominated for the prize by an eligible nominator. These are usually distinguished academics, heads of research institutes, politicians or former laureates.

History has delivered a few suspect nominees, Adolf Hitler notably, in 1939. For the past two years, Donald Trump's name has made it onto the list. 

Officially, the names of nominees are meant to be kept secret for at least 50 years, but names do get leaked, often by overzealous nominators. Often, they are inaccurate.

No pontiff has ever won the prize, but Pope Francis was favored by bookmakers for this year's prize. As was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for her decision to open her country's borders to more than 1 million refugees since 2015. 

Between 1901-2016, 97 Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded. Other stats related to the prize: 2 have been been divided between three persons; 16 women have been recipients; 62 is the average age of laureates the year they were awarded the prize; 1 winner, Vietnam's Le Duc Tho, declined the prize; 3 winners were under arrest at the time of the award: German pacifist and journalist Carl von Ossietzky, Burmese (now Myanmar) politician Aung San Suu Kyi and Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo.

This year's award comes amid debate about whether Suu Kyi — who won the prize in 1991 — should be stripped of the honor. The de facto leader of Myanmar has drawn condemnation for her defense of her country's treatment of its Rohingya population, a minority Muslim group. Rohingya have been fleeing Myanmar in the thousands for neighboring Bangladesh amid atrocities in Rakhine state.

Friday's announcement caps a week in which Nobel laureates have been named in medicine, physics, chemistry and literature.

Trump said last month at the United Nations General Assembly in New York that he has made a decision about whether to keep or kill the Iran nuclear deal he called an "embarrassment to the United States." He faces an Oct. 15. deadline to tell Congress whether he intends to re-certify the deal or get rid of it in favor of sanctions.

On Thursday night, Trump spoke — cryptically — of a "calm before the storm." 

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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