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The fight against nuclear weapons

UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO ICAN demonstration against nuclear weapons in Australia, June 2017UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

Rather than being awarded to one individual, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was won by a non-governmental organization: the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). According to Norwegian lawyer Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, ICAN has played a leading role in disarmament initiatives over the last year, drawing public attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons. Founded 10 years ago, the organization unites partners from 101 countries, including Brazil. “We have been looking for a change of approach, which has been very successful,” says Cristian Wittmann, a law professor at the Federal University of Pampa in Santana do Livramento, Brazil, and a member of the ICAN steering committee. “Previously, the concern was with preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and avoiding new conflicts; but now the threat is imminent, whether intentional or not, and a prohibition treaty needed to be created.” The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the result of extensive negotiations by generations of representatives from United Nations member states, was approved this year and on September 20, it began receiving signatures. After being signed, the document needs to be ratified by 50 member states in order to take effect, and this is when the real changes are expected.