International Campaign To Abolish Nuclear Weapons Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Oct 6, 2017
Originally published on October 6, 2017 10:10 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Nobel Peace Prize was announced this morning in Oslo.

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BERIT REISS-ANDERSEN: The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Weapons, ICAN.

MARTIN: All right. We've got NPR's Frank Langfitt on the line with us from London. Frank, the award not going to an individual - it's going to a group, an organization. Why this group? Why now?

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Well, the Nobel Committee - clearly trying to make a statement, Rachel - they said in the address this morning, the risk of nuclear conflict seems greater than it's been a long time. And they mentioned, as you'd imagine, North Korea. Of course, as we've all heard, the leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un has threatened to attack the United States. President Trump has said if the U.S. is threatened, it would totally destroy North Korea. We haven't seen that kind of rhetoric in a long time. It's very worrisome. And recent reports actually out of Pyongyang from American reporters describe the capital of North Korea as on a war footing - so a very timely choice.

MARTIN: Although, it's worth noting that the world's nuclear powers have all already rejected ICAN's treaty to ban nuclear weapons. So what does this mean?

LANGFITT: Yeah, there's no - I mean, certainly the leader of these nuclear powers whether it's the United States, the United Kingdom or China - nobody's talking about getting rid of these weapons. And one reporter at the announcement brought it up, said, you know, where's - why are you doing this? What kind of effect will this have? The Nobel committee said, you know, previously countries have adopted treaties on landmines, cluster munitions, biological and chemical weapons. It was time to move forward and take serious negotiations to try to slow the process - you know, to slowly remove the estimated 15,000 nuclear weapons out there. Now Berit Reiss-Andersen - she's the committee chair. Here's what she said to those questions from reporters.

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REISS-ANDERSEN: We do hope that it will have an impact. And what definitely will not have an impact is being passive and just accepting the state of the world.

MARTIN: So it's about sending a message to the world?

LANGFITT: Very much so, I think.

MARTIN: There were hundreds of candidates, though.

LANGFITT: Yeah.

MARTIN: Three hundred and 18, is that right?

LANGFITT: Mm-hm.

MARTIN: Who else was in the running?

LANGFITT: Well, we don't know entirely for sure. But we can tell you what the bookies thought. The bookies thought Pope Francis was a good shot at this. Of course, he's put a more compassionate face on the Catholic Church. Angela Merkel who is the leader of Europe and, of course, has taken in over a million refugees into Germany and taken a lot of political heat for that - and of course, the White Helmets who save and - rescue and save people who've been injured in all the fighting in Syria.

MARTIN: We should mention, it has been a tough year for some past Nobel Peace Prize winners.

LANGFITT: It has. Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese democratic campaigner - he died of liver cancer in a hospital under guard. You know, he never got out of prison to pick up his award. And the other, of course, Aung San Suu Kyi - Burmese leader - she won in '91. Of course, with what's happened with the Rohingya Muslim minority there being burned out of their villages, many people feel she hasn't done enough about that. And there are even questions in print - people saying, does she still deserve her Nobel prize?

MARTIN: NPR's Frank Langfitt talking about the newest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Thanks, Frank.

LANGFITT: You're very welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.