As the Nobel Committee announced on October 6 in Oslo that the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons had won the Nobel Peace Prize. At the same time, US President Donald Trump is expected to “decertify” the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal next week. Democracy Now! spoke with Tim Wright, the Asia-Pacific director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The full transcript follows the video.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with news that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The group, known as ICAN, is a coalition of nongovernmental organizations in more than a hundred countries. This is the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen.
BERIT REISS-ANDERSEN: Good morning, everybody. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN. The organization is receiving the award for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition on such weapons.
AMY GOODMAN: After the announcement at the news conference, reporters questioned the head of the Nobel Committee about the message the committee is trying to send with its award this year.
REPORTER 1: Yes. Has the risk that Iranian nuclear deal could unravel been a factor in your considerations? Thank you.
REPORTER 2: There has been an American diplomatic pressure on countries like Sweden to prevent them from signing the ICAN treatment. So, is this prize, in a way, a kick in the leg, as one of your predecessors said, to the American president, Donald Trump?
REPORTER 3: The carefully monitored elimination of nuclear weapons by the five original states, would that help to prevent proliferation among states like North Korea?
AMY GOODMAN: Some of the reporters’ questions at the news conference after the Nobel Committee announced that the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons had won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
ICAN was founded in 2007. It helped organize a landmark victory: the world’s first legally binding treaty banning nuclear weapons. The treaty was adopted by 122 U.N. member states in July, signed by 51 countries during the U.N. General Assembly Week in September. The treaty prohibits the development, testing and possession of nuclear weapons, as well as using or threatening to use these weapons. It was adopted and signed by dozens of countries, despite the fierce opposition of the United States and other nuclear-armed nations. This is the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Beatrice Fihn, speaking in Geneva.
BEATRICE FIHN: We’re working very hard on trying to make nuclear weapons illegal. They are not yet prohibited by a treaty—nuclear weapons—and I think that we’re trying to change people’s minds. People have been accepting nuclear weapons as legitimate tools for providing security for, you know, 70 years now, and we’re trying to change the mindset, really, that it’s not acceptable to threaten to level an entire city, just to keep yourself secure.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by Democracy Now! video stream from Melbourne, Australia, Tim Wright, Asia-Pacific director of ICAN, the Nobel Prize-winning organization.
First of all, Tim, congratulations.
TIM WRIGHT: Thanks very much, Amy. It’s a huge honor.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you hear?
TIM WRIGHT: We received the news about 10 minutes before it was broadcast. There was a live stream on the Nobel Peace Prize website that we were following. We knew that we had been nominated, but we really didn’t expect to receive it. So it came as a huge surprise, and we’re really thrilled.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we were all monitoring it here, New York time. It was 5:00 in the morning as the announcement was made. Talk about what ICAN does and what message you think the Nobel Committee is sending by awarding you the Nobel Peace Prize.
TIM WRIGHT: Well, we were awarded the prize for our role in securing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted earlier this year. And there are many countries, of course, that don’t support this treaty. And so, I think that the prize will help us to put pressure on them to sign and to ratify it. It’s not just the nuclear-armed states, but also some of their allies, that claim protection from U.S. nuclear weapons, for example. We really need to bring them on board and join the two-thirds of the international community that support a nuclear weapon-free world and who’ve voted in favor of this treaty.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond to some of the questions that were asked at the news conference after the Nobel Peace Prize was announced for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons? You heard the issue of, well, the announcement that President Trump wants to decertify the nuclear deal, which will be made next week, apparently, and also the question of what kind of message is being sent to the countries that did not sign, including the United States, this treaty, this groundbreaking treaty.
TIM WRIGHT: Yeah, well, this award has been given at a time of great global tension. We’ve heard threats from President Trump that he’ll totally destroy North Korea. The developments in North Korea are incredibly frightening. And the treaty that’s been adopted offers an alternative pathway forward.
In terms of the Iran deal, it makes no sense whatsoever that the United States would want to withdraw from that. This is a deal that is designed to stop another country from acquiring nuclear weapons. Why would President Trump be opposed to that deal?
But the treaty that we’ve been involved in creating goes much further than just trying to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. It’s about getting rid of the 15,000 nuclear weapons that already exist. And around 7,000 of those are in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
AMY GOODMAN: So, can you talk about what happened in the signing of the treaty and then the ratifying of it, what exactly this does? And what does it mean that the United States and the other nuclear powers would not sign on?
TIM WRIGHT: Well, this is a treaty principally intended to stigmatize nuclear weapons and establish a pathway to their elimination. Now, we never expected that the nuclear-armed nations would join the treaty at the outset, but they do have that option of joining at some point in the future. And the more countries that do get on board with this treaty, the more effective it will be in putting pressure on them to do the right thing and to join the international majority on this issue. It’s simply unacceptable, from our point of view, to have weapons that are designed to kill civilians indiscriminately and on a massive scale. And there are prohibitions on chemical weapons, biological weapons, landmines and cluster munitions. It’s only logical that there’s now a prohibition globally on nuclear weapons.
AMY GOODMAN: And in this time, when President Trump threatens to obliterate the entire nation of North Korea—25 million people—what about the question the reporter asked: If nuclear countries signed on to this nuclear ban, would that give an incentive to countries like North Korea to disarm?
TIM WRIGHT: Yes, absolutely. And I think that the spread of nuclear weapons has much to do with the failure of countries like the United States to honor their disarmament obligations. If they were serious about disarmament, if the original nuclear-armed nations were actually committed to that, then we wouldn’t see other countries seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. So, this new treaty establishes the same standard for all countries. It says that North Korea cannot have nuclear weapons, and the United States cannot have nuclear weapons, because they’re weapons with catastrophic consequences.
AMY GOODMAN: There was a very frightening moment for many when President Trump, standing with military officials yesterday, said this is “the calm before the storm.” And when pressed by reporters, “What storm?” he said, “You’ll see.”
TIM WRIGHT: Yeah, it is really frightening. And it’s easy to see how this situation could spiral out of control. And the consequences could be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people, people’s lives lost as a result. So we need to take action now. And the most responsible thing for countries to do is to sign and ratify this treaty and to clearly display their opposition to these worst weapons of mass destruction.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to end by asking you, Tim Wright, about the role of survivors. The only two atomic weapons dropped in the world were on Japan in World War II, August 6th and 9th of 1945. Hibakusha, the survivors of that bomb—of those bombs, have spoken around the world. What kind of work has the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons done with them?
TIM WRIGHT: Well, we’ve worked very closely with survivors from those two cities, as well as survivors of nuclear testing around the world, whose testimonies to diplomats at the U.N. have been really a really powerful motivating force. And when you hear what these people have gone through, you know, to defend these weapons just becomes immoral. And they really helped us get this treaty over the line.
And the treaty and the prize that we’ve now been awarded is really a tribute to the thousands of people around the world who have spoken out against nuclear weapons, who have protested at nuclear weapon facilities. And we need more of that. We need people to take their money out of banks that are investing in nuclear weapon companies. We need people to be putting pressure on their politicians. Every bit, every action that is taken will have a positive impact on making sure that this treaty fulfills its objectives.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Abacca Anjain-Maddison and end with her words. She’s from the Marshall Islands, spoke on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons at the U.N. Conference for the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons earlier this year.
ABACCA ANJAIN-MADDISON: For years, my home, the Marshall Islands, my home, the Marshall Islands, was used as testing ground for nuclear bombs, which contaminated our beautiful and pristine atolls for all time. Today, we carry in our bodies the legacy of these dreadful experiments. The cancer rate in the Marshall Islands is among the highest in the world. They treated us as guinea pigs. They told us it was for the good of mankind. The adoption of this landmark agreement today fills us with hope that the mistakes of the past will never be repeated.
AMY GOODMAN: Again, that was Abacca Anjain-Maddison from the Marshall Islands, speaking on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the organization, ICAN, that has just won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. It will actually be awarded in Oslo on International Human Rights Day, December 10th.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll talk about President Trump’s reported decertifying the Iran nuclear deal, despite the fact that the Trump administration has certified that Iran has complied. Stay with us.