The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for its “ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of [nuclear] weapons,” the Nobel committee said.
ICAN was a vital actor in bringing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to the United Nations (UN), where it was signed by 122 countries. The accord was largely symbolic as none of the world’s nuclear-armed nations signed it.
The director of ICAN itself revealed she thought the call notifying her of the win was a prank, and only believed it once the official announcement had been made.
As the news traveled around the world, congratulations came in from supporters of nuclear disarmament.
One of the first reactions to come in was from Federica Mogherini, the EU’s defense chief, herself one of the favorites to win this year’s prize for her role in negotiating the Iran nuclear deal. She wrote that she and the winners shared a “strong commitment” to a nuclear-free world.
Also quick off the mark was Julian Assange, the co-founder of Wikileaks. He said: “The Nobel Peace prize has finally been awarded to a group that fits the criteria”. Assange is in his fifth year of refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London as he avoids arrest on Swedish sexual assault charges.
The Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, tweeted his congratulations. “Now more than ever we need a world without nuclear weapons,” he said. Guterres previously served as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and was the Prime Minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the high profile British campaign group, posted a statement that said: “At a time when the prospect of nuclear war seems closer than it has for a generation, the award of this prestigious prize is an essential recognition of the global majority against nuclear weapons – and the movement that has done so much to advance it.”
Caroline Lucas, the leader of the UK Green Party, which supports nuclear disarmament, tweeted: “Scandal that UK Government has been actively working against these Nobel Prize winners. UK must back the ban, now!”
The head of Human Rights Watch tweeted in support of the choice, saying it “reminds us that indiscriminately killing civilians regardless of the means is a war crime”.