The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), an NGO which played a key role in creating the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, has won the Nobel Peace Prize.
By awarding the prize to the NGO, the Nobel committee has sent a clear message to the world that it supports efforts to achieve the ideal of a world without nuclear weapons. It is notable that efforts toward international cooperation at the grass-roots level have been appreciated.
NGOs from various countries pursuing nuclear disarmament founded ICAN in 2007. It currently consists of more than 400 groups from about 100 countries. Akira Kawasaki, co-leader of the Japanese NGO Peace Boat, is a member of ICAN's International Steering Group. The international NGO has also cooperated with the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations.
ICAN commented that the prize is also for hibakusha, or survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Therefore, the Nobel committee has also appreciated hibakushas' efforts to raise the international community's awareness of the tragedy of using atomic arms.
Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN also sounded an alarm bell over the current international situation, which is becoming increasingly tense because of North Korea's development of nuclear weapons. The Nobel committee specifically mentioned North Korea and pointed out that the proliferation of nuclear weapons poses a serious threat to the world.
ICAN chief Beatrice Fihn sent a message to the feuding U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying, "Nuclear weapons are illegal. Threatening to use nuclear weapons is illegal. Having nuclear weapons, possessing nuclear weapons, developing nuclear weapons, is illegal, and they (the leaders) need to stop."
ICAN's activities moved Austria and many other non-nuclear powers, leading to the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by 122 countries this past July. The latest decision by the Nobel committee apparently reflects rising international calls for nuclear disarmament.
The decision can also be interpreted as a warning over the lack of progress in nuclear arms reductions. Nuclear powers, including the United States, Russia and China, have refused to sign the treaty. The Nobel committee urged the international community to step up efforts toward nuclear disarmament, pointing out that how to get nuclear powers involved in such efforts is a major challenge.
Japan, as well as South Korea, Australia and European countries, refused to participate in Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons negotiations. Japan remained aloof on the grounds that if it were to sign the treaty, it would be inconsistent with Japan's policy of relying on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for the country's security.
Since Japan is the only atomic-bombed country, we should welcome the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN. All the more for that, it is extremely regrettable that Japan has not signed the nuclear weapons ban treaty.