Archived page

You are viewing an archived version of this page. We will be working to update these pages, but in the meantime, please excuse any quirks on this page as you read it, and use the navigation bar above to visit the rest of the site.

NEW POLL: Europeans reject US nuclear weapons on own soil

On the first anniversary of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), new YouGov polling commissioned by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has found an overwhelming rejection of nuclear weapons.  The poll was conducted in the four EU countries that host US nuclear weapons: Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Italy. In each country, an overwhelming majority of people surveyed were in favour of removing the weapons from their soil, and for their countries to sign the Treaty that bans them outright.

Download the full survey here →

What did the survey find?

1. At least twice as many people are in favour of removing the weapons than keeping them.
2. At least four times as many people are in favour of their country signing the TPNW than not signing the TPNW.
3. At least four times as many people are against companies in their country investing in nuclear weapons activities than in favour of it.
4. A strong majority of people are against NATO buying new fighter jets that are able to carry both nuclear weapons and conventional weapons.

One year on, a vast majority supports the Nuclear Ban Treaty

“In their totality, the survey results show a clear rejection of nuclear weapons by those Europeans who are on the frontline of any nuclear attack: those hosting American weapons on their soil. More than simply demonstrating a ‘not in my back yard’ mentality, Europeans are even more strongly in favour of a blanket ban of all nuclear weapons worldwide than they are against simply removing the weapons from their own soil,” said Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN.

“The people of Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy all know that these weapons are a massive humanitarian disaster in waiting, and they will be on the frontline,” Ms Fihn said. “That’s why on the first anniversary of the Treaty to ban all nuclear weapons we are standing with them to push NATO leaders at next week’s Brussels summit to forge a new NATO security that rejects nuclear weapons, in line with the democratic wishes of their constituents.”

This week marks the first anniversary of 122 nations adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in New York on July 7th 2017. The landmark global treaty prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.

Archived page

You are viewing an archived version of this page. We will be working to update these pages, but in the meantime, please excuse any quirks on this page as you read it, and use the navigation bar above to visit the rest of the site.

India and Russia are testing nuclear missiles: Where is the global outcry?

A new nuclear arms race has begun and it does not revolve around the number of weapons, but on increasing their deadliness. Recent nuclear missile tests by India and Russia show that nuclear-armed states are blatantly flaunting their nuclear power, posturing as tough and responsible “protectors” while in reality they put the world at large at risk.

In contrast to the Cold War arms race, when the Soviet Union and United States produced tens of thousands of nuclear warheads to match each other’s “overkill capacity”, the new nuclear arms race centres on the qualitative refinement of nuclear capabilities. Nuclear-armed states keep pouring money into their nuclear-weapon programmes. While the number of banks and financial institutions investing in nuclear weapons technology appears to be declining, the overall volume of investment in nuclear weapons is on the rise.

Two nuclear missile tests in less than two weeks

Two recent events illustrate the dynamics of this new arms race:

First, on 22 May, Russia test-fired four long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying 24 nuclear warheads. Together, the four missiles could deliver an explosion 160 times that of the bomb that devastated Hiroshima in 1945. The blast, firestorms, and radiation caused by the Hiroshima bomb is estimated to have killed almost 200,000 people , a number that may still be rising, as radiation-induced cancer remains disproportionately prevalent among survivors.

Second, on 3 June, India test-fired its Agni-V missile from a missile base in Hyderabad. Agni-V is a long-range nuclear missile capable of hitting most of Asia, Africa, and Europe.

The attitudes from both states in regard to these tests are both telling and alarming: The Russian Ministry of Defence released a promo video of the missile tests showing a Russian submarine firing off the four missiles from a submerged position in the White Sea. In India, the test was celebrated by the Indian government and media. India – a champion of nuclear disarmament during much of the Cold War – reversed its position in the 1990s and has gradually built up its nuclear arsenal. Former Indian governments’ former position – that nuclear weapons are unacceptable weapons of mass destruction designed to slaughter civilians – no  longer holds sway in New Delhi.


Reactions around the world: Where’s the outrage?

Perhaps equally troubling, the international community is failing to loudly condemn India and Russia for these nuclear missile tests. Instead of delivering harsh criticism, states have responded with deafening silence or worse: a renewed focus on rearmament.

Russia’s bellicose stance in recent years has resulted in considerable rearmament in Eastern Europe and the Nordic region. Polish politicians have even played with the idea of inviting the United States to station nuclear weapons on Polish territory. The United States is already spending huge money on “modernizing” its nuclear force, including the B-61 nuclear bombs it stations in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey.

India’s nuclear missile development also creates incentives – or perhaps a pretext – for other states to develop similar arms. India’s nuclear expansion is itself a response to developments in the region. Last year, Pakistan reportedly became the first state in South Asia to develop missiles with multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), that is, missiles capable of delivering several nuclear warheads.

Time to stigmatize nuclear weapons and join the nuclear ban treaty

In contrast to banned chemical and biological weapons, which are widely regarded as immoral, recent events show that some states still consider nuclear weapons  as legitimate and prestigious. From Moscow to New Delhi to Washington DC and Pyongyang, nuclear-armed leaders are using nuclear weapons to signal strength and resolve. But the majority of the world disagrees. On 7 July 2017, 122 states voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), a landmark agreement prohibiting the development, possession, and use of nuclear weapons.

The TPNW is a perfect tool for the international community to de-legitimise and stigmatise nuclear weapons. By joining and promoting the treaty, states can create the same moral stigma around nuclear weapons as currently exists around chemical and biological arms. As long as the international community focuses its efforts on “irresponsible” nuclear behaviour such as proliferation, testing, or use, global nuclear disarmament will remain difficult to achieve. To achieve disarmament, the international community must de-legitimise nuclear weapons themselves. For responsible states, the way forwards is clear: sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons!

Archived page

You are viewing an archived version of this page. We will be working to update these pages, but in the meantime, please excuse any quirks on this page as you read it, and use the navigation bar above to visit the rest of the site.

Switzerland’s First Chamber in favour of joining Nuclear Ban Treaty without delay

Bern, 5 June – The lower house of Switzerland’s parliament, the National Council, adopted a motion today calling on the Government to sign the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as soon as possible and submit it to Parliament for ratification. A majority of Swiss MPs from all political parties voted in favour of the motion, reaffirming Switzerland’s humanitarian tradition.

“We are extremely pleased that the members of the National Council let themselves be guided by our humanitarian values in this important matter,” said Annette Willi of ICAN Switzerland. “The support from representatives from all political parties is a testament to the strong public interest and the urgency of this issue.”

The Presidents of the International Committee of the Red Cross and of the Swiss Red Cross recently called on the Swiss Parliament not to break with its humanitarian tradition in this matter.

ICAN Switzerland congratulated Socialist MP Carlo Sommaruga on introducing the motion in December 2017, together with MPs from all political parties represented in the National Council, and thanked the MPs who voted in favour in this important matter.

At a time of serious international tensions, with politicians openly threatening to use nuclear weapons, this decision sends a clear message: nuclear weapons are unacceptable; they must be prohibited like the other weapons of mass destruction.

Against this backdrop, the TPNW represents a beacon of hope and an essential stepping stone on the path toward a nuclear weapons free world. With the support of a majority of states, including Switzerland, this Treaty can mark a historical turning point towards the end of the nuclear era.

Switzerland participated in the Treaty’s negotiation and voted in favour of it at the UN last July. The Swiss Government acknowledges that the prohibition of nuclear weapons is in accordance “with core interests and traditional values of Switzerland, including its security interests”. The Treaty strengthens existing disarmament and non-proliferation instruments and reinforces a rules-based international order that contributes to the security of all.

Nevertheless, the Swiss Government did not back the motion. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ignazio Cassis, said in February that he wanted to hold off deciding whether or not to join the Treaty until after an internal analysis of the instrument had been completed. The results of that analysis are expected to be available before the fall, when the second chamber of Parliament votes on the motion.

“Today’s vote was important for Switzerland’s reputation and to reaffirm its neutrality,” said Annette Willi.  “The majority of states support this Treaty. How could Switzerland continue to be a credible bridge-builder in multilateral disarmament whilst remaining outside of this historic UN agreement? Switzerland must show leadership and sign the Treaty without further delay.”

Archived page

You are viewing an archived version of this page. We will be working to update these pages, but in the meantime, please excuse any quirks on this page as you read it, and use the navigation bar above to visit the rest of the site.

Cancellation of US-DPRK summit proves Nuclear Ban Treaty is the only path to denuclearisation

The writing has been on the wall for weeks. Today, the White House confirmed that the long-awaited summit between the USA and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will not take place, claiming “anger and tremendous hostility” made this an “inappropriate time” to have such a meeting.

This cancellation, so close after US’ unilateral withdrawal from the Iran Deal, shows once more that the world can’t blindly trust Donald Trump to ensure world peace.

But the future of the Korean Peninsula does not belong to Trump. South Korea’s strategic diplomatic overtures have achieved far more than posturing and threatening tweets. Today’s demolition of the nuclear test site at Punggye-Ri shows that North Korea is taking steps forward towards disarmament. There is still a path to denuclearisation through multilateral diplomacy: North and South Korea could still join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and denuclearize the Korean Peninsula for good.

Archived page

You are viewing an archived version of this page. We will be working to update these pages, but in the meantime, please excuse any quirks on this page as you read it, and use the navigation bar above to visit the rest of the site.

Austria ratifies the Nuclear Ban Treaty

Today, Austria has become the ninth state to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TNPW). Austria is well known as one of the key drivers and champions for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

In 2014 Austria hosted the Third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, which culminated in a Humanitarian Pledge, ultimately signed by 127 states. Through UN General Assembly meetings and UN Working Groups, Austria has consistently and stridently carried the flag for a ban on nuclear weapons. Austria’s early ratification of the TPNW demonstrates that it intends to continue to take a leadership role in the implementation of the treaty and promote its universalization.

Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director ICAN, celebrates this commitment: “Leadership on diplomacy and disarmament is about making agreements and treaties, not about ripping them up. On the day where the US might withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal, I’m grateful for Austrian leadership on humanitarian and nuclear disarmament.”

Nadja Schmidt, Executive Director of ICAN Austria, is “very pleased to see Austria ratify the TPNW, being among the first ten countries to do so. This is a huge success for our national campaign. Austria continues to demonstrate it’s will to play a leading role in eliminating nuclear weapons (for a nuclear weapon free world). We call on our government and parliament to uphold this strong engagement in the future.”

Austria joins the State Parties to the TPNW only days after the island nation of Palau became the first Pacific country to ratify the treaty.

Archived page

You are viewing an archived version of this page. We will be working to update these pages, but in the meantime, please excuse any quirks on this page as you read it, and use the navigation bar above to visit the rest of the site.

The power of diplomacy: ICAN welcomes efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the Nobel Peace Laureate of 2017, welcomes the efforts from North and South Korea to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. The dangerous rhetoric from Donald Trump and the US brought us to the brink of nuclear war, and only careful diplomacy from South Korea has brought us back from it. It should remind us that in reality, there are no responsible nuclear states, and that only the complete elimination of nuclear weapons through the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will keep us safe.


Archived page

You are viewing an archived version of this page. We will be working to update these pages, but in the meantime, please excuse any quirks on this page as you read it, and use the navigation bar above to visit the rest of the site.

Nuclear grandstanding a danger to the world

On 1 March, the Russian President Vladimir Putin, made headlines by boasting that the Russian Federation’s new ‘invincible’ nuclear weapons can breach NATO’s missile defences in a speech. In particular, Putin bigged up Russia’s new nuclear cruise missiles, which are currently being tested.

Putin’s statement was made on the back of US president Donald Trump’s claim last month that, if Russia did not stop modernising its nuclear force, ‘we’re going to be so far ahead of everybody else in nuclear like you’ve never seen before.’ Both Russia and the United States are in the midst of massive nuclear modernisation efforts that experts believe bear the marks of a budding arms race. Putin justified his country’s development of new nuclear capabilities by pointing to US missile defence systems developed since the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002. Back in 2002, Russian protests to the US withdrawal were meek.

A number of commentators have rightly highlighted the embarrassing pettiness of the nuclear-armed leaders’ name-calling and button-size comparisons. But the more crucial point is that Putin’s, Trump’s, and Kim Jong-un’s incendiary nuclear rhetoric plays well with their respective domestic audiences. From Moscow to DC to Pyeongyang, nuclear weapons are represented as symbols of status and military prowess.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted by 122 states in 2017 to counter the culture of nuclear grandstanding and acquiescence. For a large majority of the world’s states, nuclear weapons are fundamentally illegitimate weapons. They are marks of shame, not prestige.

‘While Russia and the US compare the size of their arsenals, the rest of the world is joining a treaty that bans them’, ICAN’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn, points out. The TPNW prohibits the possession, hosting, and use of nuclear weapons, as well as assistance, encouragement, and inducement of prohibited acts.

‘The United States and Russia have both repeatedly pledged to reduce their nuclear arsenals and to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their security policies’, says Fihn. ‘The two countries’ ongoing modernisation programmes and escalatory language increases the risk of nuclear use and undermines the commitment to nuclear disarmament they have made under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.’

In recent years, Russian officials have on multiple occasions threatened nuclear strikes against countries in its region. Research shows that it would only take a tiny fraction of the world’s current inventory of nuclear weapons to cause catastrophic climatic disturbances. The resulting ‘nuclear winter’ would of course not discriminate between the user and the target of the nuclear strikes, let alone third parties or neighbouring countries.

In a 2016 meeting at the UN, the Russian delegation claimed Russia possesses nuclear weapons with ‘absolute legitimacy’. The widespread support by the majority of states of the world for the TPNW makes it clear that they do not agree and are instead committed to disarmament.

“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Leaders like Putin, Trump and Kim Jong-Un are putting the entire world at risk with their current behaviour. All states should urgently rally around the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to signal their rejection of nuclear weapons”, says Fihn.

Archived page

You are viewing an archived version of this page. We will be working to update these pages, but in the meantime, please excuse any quirks on this page as you read it, and use the navigation bar above to visit the rest of the site.

Alarming changes to the US nuclear posture

On the order of President Trump, the US Department of Defense is currently concluding a sweeping review of the United States’ nuclear policy – a “nuclear posture review” ­– expected to be released at the end of this month. But already now, the text has leaked and shows that the Trump administration will loosen constraints on the use of nuclear weapons and develop more “usable” nuclear warheads.

The Trump administration’s review makes significant changes to US nuclear policy, both by developing new types of nuclear weapons and expand the circumstances in which they could be used. “None of the changes will be of any good either for the United States or for the world”, states ICAN’s Executive Director, Beatrice Fihn. “Nuclear weapons are indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction with no place in civilised international relations. The United States should endeavour to strengthen the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons, not seek to undermine it” she said.

President Trump’s nuclear posture review widens the circumstances in which the United States might use its weapons of mass destruction. The last nuclear posture review, completed in 2010, ruled out the use of nuclear weapons against “non-nuclear weapon states that are party to the NPT, [the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] and in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations.” The new review opens for the use of nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear attacks “that caused mass casualties” or were “aimed at critical infrastructure or nuclear command and control sites”. The relative ambiguity of terms such as “mass casualties” and “critical infrastructure” implies that the United States could consider using nuclear weapons in almost any armed conflict.

“The Trump administration’s loosening of the constraints on the use of nuclear weapons sends a deeply troubling message”, says ICAN’s Network Coordinator Daniel Högsta: “The United States considers the use of weapons of mass destruction to indiscriminately kill enormous amounts of civilians a useful and legitimate tool of statecraft. Not only will this position make it more difficult for the international community to persuade North Korea and other nuclear-armed states that they should give up their weapons, it could also embolden actors that have not yet acquired nuclear weapons to do so in the future.”

The new nuclear posture review also provides for hardware changes. The new nuclear posture review calls for the development of two new types of nuclear weapons, a “low-yield” warhead for its submarine-launched ballistic missiles and reintroduce submarine-launched nuclear cruise missiles.

The introduction of such more “usable” weapons could lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons and thereby increase the likelihood of nuclear war. “Any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic consequences and the radiation would harm people and the environment for a long time.

By expanding the role of nuclear weapons in the US military doctrine, the Trump administration is out of step with the international community, which on 7 July 2017, 122 countries adopted a UN treaty unconditionally prohibiting the possession and use of nuclear weapons. This updated Nuclear Posture Review not only goes against the aims and principles of this international agreement, but also undermines the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the US own commitments on reducing the role of nuclear weapons and pursuing nuclear disarmament.

In 2010, at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, the United States and other nuclear-armed nations solemnly agreed to “diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons in all military and security concepts, doctrines and policies” and to pursue negotiations for further reductions of nuclear arsenals.

Archived page

You are viewing an archived version of this page. We will be working to update these pages, but in the meantime, please excuse any quirks on this page as you read it, and use the navigation bar above to visit the rest of the site.

ICAN receives 2017 Nobel Peace Prize

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was presented to ICAN at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on 10 December in recognition of our work “to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” and our “ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.

Watch the ceremony →

Watch the concert →


Photo highlights

Nobel Peace Prize – Ceremony

Nobel Lecture

Japanese translation →

Nobel Lecture given by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2017, ICAN, delivered by Beatrice Fihn and Setsuko Thurlow, Oslo, 10 December 2017:

Beatrice Fihn:

Your Majesties,

Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee,

Esteemed guests,

Today, it is a great honour to accept the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of thousands of inspirational people who make up the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Together we have brought democracy to disarmament and are reshaping international law.

We most humbly thank the Norwegian Nobel Committee for recognizing our work and giving momentum to our crucial cause. We want to recognize those who have so generously donated their time and energy to this campaign.

We thank the courageous foreign ministers, diplomats, Red Cross and Red Crescent staff, UN officials, academics and experts with whom we have worked in partnership to advance our common goal. And we thank all who are committed to ridding the world of this terrible threat.

At dozens of locations around the world – in missile silos buried in our earth, on submarines navigating through our oceans, and aboard planes flying high in our sky – lie 15,000 objects of humankind’s destruction. Perhaps it is the enormity of this fact, perhaps it is the unimaginable scale of the consequences, that leads many to simply accept this grim reality. To go about our daily lives with no thought to the instruments of insanity all around us.

For it is insanity to allow ourselves to be ruled by these weapons. Many critics of this movement suggest that we are the irrational ones, the idealists with no grounding in reality. That nuclear-armed states will never give up their weapons. But we represent the only rational choice. We represent those who refuse to accept nuclear weapons as a fixture in our world, those who refuse to have their fates bound up in a few lines of launch code.

Ours is the only reality that is possible. The alternative is unthinkable. The story of nuclear weapons will have an ending, and it is up to us what that ending will be. Will it be the end of nuclear weapons, or will it be the end of us? One of these things will happen. The only rational course of action is to cease living under the conditions where our mutual destruction is only one impulsive tantrum away.

Today I want to talk of three things: fear, freedom, and the future. By the very admission of those who possess them, the real utility of nuclear weapons is in their ability to provoke fear. When they refer to their “deterrent” effect, proponents of nuclear weapons are celebrating fear as a weapon of war. They are puffing their chests by declaring their preparedness to exterminate, in a flash, countless thousands of human lives.

Nobel Laureate William Faulkner said when accepting his prize in 1950, that “There is only the question of ‘when will I be blown up?'” But since then, this universal fear has given way to something even more dangerous: denial. Gone is the fear of Armageddon in an instant, gone is the equilibrium between two blocs that was used as the justification for deterrence, gone are the fallout shelters.

But one thing remains: the thousands upon thousands of nuclear warheads that filled us up with that fear. The risk for nuclear weapons use is even greater today than at the end of the Cold War. But unlike the Cold War, today we face many more nuclear armed states, terrorists, and cyber warfare. All of this makes us less safe. Learning to live with these weapons in blind acceptance has been our next great mistake.

Fear is rational. The threat is real. We have avoided nuclear war not through prudent leadership but good fortune. Sooner or later, if we fail to act, our luck will run out. A moment of panic or carelessness, a misconstrued comment or bruised ego, could easily lead us unavoidably to the destruction of entire cities. A calculated military escalation could lead to the indiscriminate mass murder of civilians.

If only a small fraction of today’s nuclear weapons were used, soot and smoke from the firestorms would loft high into the atmosphere – cooling, darkening and drying the Earth’s surface for more than a decade. It would obliterate food crops, putting billions at risk of starvation. Yet we continue to live in denial of this existential threat.

But Faulkner in his Nobel speech also issued a challenge to those who came after him. Only by being the voice of humanity, he said, can we defeat fear; can we help humanity endure. ICAN’s duty is to be that voice. The voice of humanity and humanitarian law; to speak up on behalf of civilians. Giving voice to that humanitarian perspective is how we will create the end of fear, the end of denial. And ultimately, the end of nuclear weapons.

That brings me to my second point: freedom. As the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the first ever anti-nuclear weapons organisation to win this prize, said on this stage in 1985: “We physicians protest the outrage of holding the entire world hostage. We protest the moral obscenity that each of us is being continuously targeted for extinction.”

Those words still ring true in 2017. We must reclaim the freedom to not live our lives as hostages to imminent annihilation. Man – not woman! – made nuclear weapons to control others, but instead we are controlled by them. They made us false promises. That by making the consequences of using these weapons so unthinkable it would make any conflict unpalatable. That it would keep us free from war.

But far from preventing war, these weapons brought us to the brink multiple times throughout the Cold War. And in this century, these weapons continue to escalate us towards war and conflict. In Iraq, in Iran, in Kashmir, in North Korea. Their existence propels others to join the nuclear race. They don’t keep us safe, they cause conflict.

As fellow Nobel Peace Laureate, Martin Luther King Jr, called them from this very stage in 1964, these weapons are “both genocidal and suicidal”. They are the madman’s gun held permanently to our temple. These weapons were supposed to keep us free, but they deny us our freedoms.

It’s an affront to democracy to be ruled by these weapons. But they are just weapons. They are just tools. And just as they were created by geopolitical context, they can just as easily be destroyed by placing them in a humanitarian context.

That is the task ICAN has set itself – and my third point I wish to talk about, the future. I have the honour of sharing this stage today with Setsuko Thurlow, who has made it her life’s purpose to bear witness to the horror of nuclear war. She and the hibakusha were at the beginning of the story, and it is our collective challenge to ensure they will also witness the end of it.

They relive the painful past, over and over again, so that we may create a better future. There are hundreds of organisations that together as ICAN are making great strides towards that future.

There are thousands of tireless campaigners around the world who work each day to rise to that challenge. There are millions of people across the globe who have stood shoulder to shoulder with those campaigners to show hundreds of millions more that a different future is truly possible. Those who say that future is not possible need to get out of the way of those making it a reality.

As the culmination of this grassroots effort, through the action of ordinary people, this year the hypothetical marched forward towards the actual as 122 nations negotiated and concluded a UN treaty to outlaw these weapons of mass destruction.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons provides the pathway forward at a moment of great global crisis. It is a light in a dark time. And more than that, it provides a choice. A choice between the two endings: the end of nuclear weapons or the end of us.

It is not naive to believe in the first choice. It is not irrational to think nuclear states can disarm. It is not idealistic to believe in life over fear and destruction; it is a necessity.

All of us face that choice. And I call on every nation to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The United States, choose freedom over fear. Russia, choose disarmament over destruction. Britain, choose the rule of law over oppression.  France, choose human rights over terror. China, choose reason over irrationality. India, choose sense over senselessness. Pakistan, choose logic over Armageddon. Israel, choose common sense over obliteration. North Korea, choose wisdom over ruin.

To the nations who believe they are sheltered under the umbrella of nuclear weapons, will you be complicit in your own destruction and the destruction of others in your name? To all nations: choose the end of nuclear weapons over the end of us! This is the choice that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represents. Join this Treaty.

We citizens are living under the umbrella of falsehoods. These weapons are not keeping us safe, they are contaminating our land and water, poisoning our bodies and holding hostage our right to life. To all citizens of the world: Stand with us and demand your government side with humanity and sign this treaty. We will not rest until all States have joined, on the side of reason.

No nation today boasts of being a chemical weapon state. No nation argues that it is acceptable, in extreme circumstances, to use sarin nerve agent. No nation proclaims the right to unleash on its enemy the plague or polio. That is because international norms have been set, perceptions have been changed.

And now, at last, we have an unequivocal norm against nuclear weapons. Monumental strides forward never begin with universal agreement. With every new signatory and every passing year, this new reality will take hold. This is the way forward. There is only one way to prevent the use of nuclear weapons: prohibit and eliminate them.

Nuclear weapons, like chemical weapons, biological weapons, cluster munitions and land mines before them, are now illegal. Their existence is immoral. Their abolishment is in our hands. The end is inevitable. But will that end be the end of nuclear weapons or the end of us? We must choose one.

We are a movement for rationality. For democracy. For freedom from fear. We are campaigners from 468 organisations who are working to safeguard the future, and we are representative of the moral majority: the billions of people who choose life over death, who together will see the end of nuclear weapons.

Thank you.


Setsuko Thurlow:

Your Majesties,

Distinguished members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee,

My fellow campaigners, here and throughout the world,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great privilege to accept this award, together with Beatrice, on behalf of all the remarkable human beings who form the ICAN movement. You each give me such tremendous hope that we can – and will – bring the era of nuclear weapons to an end.

I speak as a member of the family of hibakusha – those of us who, by some miraculous chance, survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For more than seven decades, we have worked for the total abolition of nuclear weapons.

We have stood in solidarity with those harmed by the production and testing of these horrific weapons around the world. People from places with long-forgotten names, like Moruroa, Ekker, Semipalatinsk, Maralinga, Bikini. People whose lands and seas were irradiated, whose bodies were experimented upon, whose cultures were forever disrupted.

We were not content to be victims. We refused to wait for an immediate fiery end or the slow poisoning of our world. We refused to sit idly in terror as the so-called great powers took us past nuclear dusk and brought us recklessly close to nuclear midnight. We rose up. We shared our stories of survival. We said: humanity and nuclear weapons cannot coexist.

Today, I want you to feel in this hall the presence of all those who perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I want you to feel, above and around us, a great cloud of a quarter million souls. Each person had a name. Each person was loved by someone. Let us ensure that their deaths were not in vain.

I was just 13 years old when the United States dropped the first atomic bomb, on my city Hiroshima. I still vividly remember that morning. At 8:15, I saw a blinding bluish-white flash from the window. I remember having the sensation of floating in the air.

As I regained consciousness in the silence and darkness, I found myself pinned by the collapsed building. I began to hear my classmates’ faint cries: “Mother, help me. God, help me.”

Then, suddenly, I felt hands touching my left shoulder, and heard a man saying: “Don’t give up! Keep pushing! I am trying to free you. See the light coming through that opening? Crawl towards it as quickly as you can.” As I crawled out, the ruins were on fire. Most of my classmates in that building were burned to death alive. I saw all around me utter, unimaginable devastation.

Processions of ghostly figures shuffled by. Grotesquely wounded people, they were bleeding, burnt, blackened and swollen. Parts of their bodies were missing. Flesh and skin hung from their bones. Some with their eyeballs hanging in their hands. Some with their bellies burst open, their intestines hanging out. The foul stench of burnt human flesh filled the air.

Thus, with one bomb my beloved city was obliterated. Most of its residents were civilians who were incinerated, vaporized, carbonized – among them, members of my own family and 351 of my schoolmates.

In the weeks, months and years that followed, many thousands more would die, often in random and mysterious ways, from the delayed effects of radiation. Still to this day, radiation is killing survivors.

Whenever I remember Hiroshima, the first image that comes to mind is of my four-year-old nephew, Eiji – his little body transformed into an unrecognizable melted chunk of flesh. He kept begging for water in a faint voice until his death released him from agony.

To me, he came to represent all the innocent children of the world, threatened as they are at this very moment by nuclear weapons. Every second of every day, nuclear weapons endanger everyone we love and everything we hold dear. We must not tolerate this insanity any longer.

Through our agony and the sheer struggle to survive – and to rebuild our lives from the ashes – we hibakusha became convinced that we must warn the world about these apocalyptic weapons. Time and again, we shared our testimonies.

But still some refused to see Hiroshima and Nagasaki as atrocities – as war crimes. They accepted the propaganda that these were “good bombs” that had ended a “just war”. It was this myth that led to the disastrous nuclear arms race – a race that continues to this day.

Nine nations still threaten to incinerate entire cities, to destroy life on earth, to make our beautiful world uninhabitable for future generations. The development of nuclear weapons signifies not a country’s elevation to greatness, but its descent to the darkest depths of depravity. These weapons are not a necessary evil; they are the ultimate evil.

On the seventh of July this year, I was overwhelmed with joy when a great majority of the world’s nations voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Having witnessed humanity at its worst, I witnessed, that day, humanity at its best. We hibakusha had been waiting for the ban for seventy-two years. Let this be the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.

All responsible leaders will sign this treaty. And history will judge harshly those who reject it. No longer shall their abstract theories mask the genocidal reality of their practices. No longer shall “deterrence” be viewed as anything but a deterrent to disarmament. No longer shall we live under a mushroom cloud of fear.

To the officials of nuclear-armed nations – and to their accomplices under the so-called “nuclear umbrella” – I say this: Listen to our testimony. Heed our warning. And know that your actions are consequential. You are each an integral part of a system of violence that is endangering humankind. Let us all be alert to the banality of evil.

To every president and prime minister of every nation of the world, I beseech you: Join this treaty; forever eradicate the threat of nuclear annihilation.

When I was a 13-year-old girl, trapped in the smouldering rubble, I kept pushing. I kept moving toward the light. And I survived. Our light now is the ban treaty. To all in this hall and all listening around the world, I repeat those words that I heard called to me in the ruins of Hiroshima: “Don’t give up! Keep pushing! See the light? Crawl towards it.”

Tonight, as we march through the streets of Oslo with torches aflame, let us follow each other out of the dark night of nuclear terror. No matter what obstacles we face, we will keep moving and keep pushing and keep sharing this light with others. This is our passion and commitment for our one precious world to survive.

Archived page

You are viewing an archived version of this page. We will be working to update these pages, but in the meantime, please excuse any quirks on this page as you read it, and use the navigation bar above to visit the rest of the site.

Atomic bomb survivor to jointly accept Nobel Peace Prize on ICAN’s behalf

An 85-year-old survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima will jointly accept this year’s Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Setsuko Thurlow, who was 13 years old when the United States attacked her city, will receive the award together with ICAN’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn, at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo on 10 December.

Thurlow has been a leading figure in ICAN since its launch in 2007. She played a pivotal role in the United Nations negotiations that led to the adoption of the landmark treaty outlawing nuclear weapons in July.

For more than seven decades, she has campaigned against the bomb. Her powerful speeches at diplomatic conferences and in classrooms have inspired countless individuals around the world to take action for disarmament.

Two other survivors of the atomic bombings – Terumi Tanaka from Nagasaki and Toshiki Fujimori from Hiroshima, who are both members of Nihon Hidankyo – will also attend the prize ceremony, as will survivors of nuclear testing.

Fihn, who is based in Geneva, has worked in the area of disarmament for the past decade, including with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She has a law degree from the University of London.

“In our advocacy, we have always emphasized the inhumanity of nuclear weapons. Devices that are incapable of distinguishing between a combatant and a child are simply unacceptable,” said Fihn.

“Survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are living witnesses to the horror of nuclear war. They have played a central role in ICAN. World leaders must heed their call for a nuclear-weapon-free future.”

Thurlow and Fihn will jointly deliver the Nobel lecture and receive the medallion and diploma from the Norwegian Nobel committee. They will do so as representatives of ICAN, this year’s Nobel peace laureate.

ICAN was awarded the prize “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”.

ICAN is a diverse coalition of 468 non-governmental organizations in 101 countries promoting adherence to and implementation of the United Nations nuclear weapon ban treaty.

ICAN campaigners around the world will take part in celebrations on 10 December and renew their appeal for governments to sign and ratify this crucial new international accord without delay.

Thurlow said that she was overjoyed by the news that ICAN had won the Nobel Peace Prize, describing it as a wonderful and well-deserved honour. “I am so deeply humbled to have been invited to jointly accept the prize on behalf of the campaign,” she said.

“It has been such a privilege to work with so many passionate and inspirational ICAN campaigners around the world over the past decade. The Nobel Peace Prize is a powerful tool that we can now use to advance our cause.”

More information about Setsuko Thurlow.

More information about Beatrice Fihn.


Thurlow speaks on 7 July 2017 in New York following a historic vote – 122 nations to one – to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.


Fihn speaks at the signing ceremony for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on 20 September 2017.