Nobel Peace Prize winners snubbed by Australia’s prime minister
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Nobel Peace Prize winners snubbed by Australia’s prime minister

AN AUSTRALIAN-founded international campaign to ban nuclear weapons has been awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, however, the country’s prime minister has not publicly congratulated the organisation.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) – which began in Australia, was officially launched in Vienna ten years ago and only has a few paid staff – was awarded the prize on Friday for its pivotal role in achieving the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted by the United Nations on July 7 this year.

The Nobel Committee said that ICAN was recognised “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 prize – accompanied by US$1.4 million to continue campaigning for nuclear disarmament – comes at a time where a war of words between North Korea and Donald Trump’s administration threatens the outbreak of nuclear conflict.

A spokesperson for ICAN, Gem Romuld, told Asian Correspondent that the organisation will use the funds to “boost efforts worldwide to achieve the signatures and ratifications of nations who have not yet joined” the treaty.

SEE ALSO: North Korea urged to opt for peace amid ‘extreme’ danger of nuclear war


(From left) Fihn, coordinator Daniel Hogsta, and member of the steering committee Grethe Ostern attend a news conference after ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize 2017, on Oct 6, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. Source: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

Along with powers that possess nuclear weapons including China, India, North Korea and the United States, Australia did not participate in the talks earlier this year that led to 122 nations backing the treaty. Most NATO countries also boycotted it.

Australia’s close ally the US argues that it is too unsafe for western powers not to possess nuclear arms. This likely explains why days after the awarding, ICAN is yet to receive even a phone call from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“He may not support our work in helping achieve this treaty and a world free of nuclear weapons. As the first Australian-born organisation to win the Prize, this is disappointing,” said Romuld.

“Signing the Treaty would help Australia comply with its obligations to pursue nuclear disarmament under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

In a statement released over the weekend after receiving the Nobel Prize, ICAN said that “the treaty categorically outlaws the worst weapons of mass destruction and establishes a clear pathway to their total elimination.”

SEE ALSO: Will North Korea sell its nuclear technology?

“By harnessing the power of the people, we have worked to bring an end to the most destructive weapon ever created – the only weapon that poses an existential threat to all humanity.”

Just ten minutes out from awarding the prestigious award, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Institute Olav Njølstad called ICAN executive director Beatrice Fihn to inform her of the news.

Asked what her response was, Fihn reacted: “Shock! Um, well this is amazing. I’m shaking. Wow, what an honour. I feel like I have to collect myself for a moment,” she said, before taking to Twitter to post “This. Is. Surreal.”


Protest at Australian foreign ministry in Canberra, Australia, on Sept 20, 2017. Source: ICAN

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Later interviewed by Nobel Media, Fihn said that “the Cold War is over a long time ago, we can no longer accept these weapons and I think that perspective has really mobilised a new generation of campaigners.”

Regarding the treaty, Dihn commented that “it stigmatises nuclear weapons. It declares under international law that these weapons are unacceptable and now illegal as well.”

Being awarded the Nobel Prize would “change everything” for ICAN, she said, in that up until now they had been ignored by mainstream media.

“This award shines a needed light on the path the ban treaty provides towards a world free of nuclear weapons. Before it is too late, we must take that path,” ICAN’s statement added.