2017 Nobel Peace Prize Winner: ICAN

Michelle Bach
March 8, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: Official Announcement for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Winner: ICAN (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) (as shown by the official announcement in Fig. 1). The prize honored ICAN's efforts to highlight the potential for the use of nuclear weapons to cause devastating humanitarian consequences. ICAN was also recognized for its campaign efforts to promote the first legally binding international treaty for a complete ban on nuclear weapons. [1,2] 122 United Nations (UN) states signed the treaty; however, the key players, which are nuclear-armed states, including the U.S., Russia, England, and China, did not sign the treaty. [2] The United States strongly opposed the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which ICAN helped develop. The United States even pressured its NATO allies to refrain from signing the treaty because the US believed the treaty would have no impact on disarming countries of nuclear weapons. [3] Despite the various opposition against the treaty, the Nobel Peace Prize committee stated that ICAN's campaign recognized the need for these nuclear-armed states to take serious action to negotiate the elimination of the 15,000 nuclear weapons around the world. [4]

Given the belligerent dialogue between North Korea and the United States, the Nobel Peace Prize award was presented to ICAN a few weeks after North Korea had tested another nuclear weapon, potentially a miniaturized nuclear weapon capable of fitting inside an intercontinental missile that can reach the U.S., South Korea, or Japan. In the dialogue between President Trump and representatives at Pyeongyang, President Trump threatened to destroy North Korea if the United States or its allies were under threat. The continued testing of nuclear weapons by North Korea may encourage other nations to develop and gather nuclear weapons as well. [1,4]

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to ICAN during a time of uncertainty in terms of the Iran Nuclear Deal. President Trump had stated that he would not re-certify the deal unless more stringent regulations were put into place in Iran. The Iran Nuclear Deal, which was signed in 2015, was considered a successful diplomatic achievement because it placed limitations on Iran's use of nuclear weapons. This uncertainty may lead to nuclear weapon development by Iran if the United States does not re-certify the agreement. [1,4]

Another reason why ICAN was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize is due to the threat of "doomsday" (the probability of a nuclear war), which has been at its highest since 1953. As political tensions rise, the peace prize may have been a symbol for the need for addressing the threat of nuclear war. [1]

About ICAN

Fig. 2: ICAN Logo (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

ICAN (the logo is shown in Fig. 2) is not a single organization, but instead it represents the collaboration between 468 diverse non-governmental organizations across 101 countries that stand together for one goal: nuclear disarmament. ICAN was founded in Australia more than 10 years ago, but its offices today are located in Geneva, Switzerland. [1] ICAN stems from an international conference on nuclear non-proliferation that was inspired by movements to ban chemical weapons, biological weapons, and land mines. The specific movement that served as a role model was the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines, which was awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. [2] The executive director of ICAN is Beatrice Fihn, who has frequently expressed her concern about the rising tensions between President Trump and representatives from North Korea on the topic of nuclear proliferation. [3]

History of Nobel Peace Prize

For the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Award, out of 318 candidates, including 215 individuals and 103 organizations, ICAN was selected for the award. Since 1901, 97 Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded to 130 different laureates including Martin Luther King Jr., Malala Yousafzai, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela. [4,5] The Nobel Peace Prize committee has shown an affinity towards awarding anti-nuclear campaign efforts throughout history. For example, Linus Pauling was awarded the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize for campaign efforts to prevent nuclear weapon testing. The 1985 Nobel Peace Prize Award was given to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), during the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. ICAN is the new addition to the list of organizations and individuals who have dedicated their efforts to nuclear non-proliferation. [1]

© Michelle Bach. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] T. John, "5 Reasons Why ICAN Won the Nobel Peace Prize," TIME, 6 Oct 17.

[2] D. Boyle, "Nobel Peace Prize 2017 awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons," The Telegraph, 6 Oct 17.

[3] R. D. Gibbons, "The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wants to Ban Nuclear Weapons. Here's Why the U.S. is Opposed.," Washington Post, 11 Dec 17.

[4] A. Jamieson and Y. Talmazan, "2017 Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons," NBC News, 6 Oct 17.

[5] J. Henley, "Nobel Peace Prize 2017: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons wins award as it happened," The Guardian, 6 Oct 17.