What is ICAN, winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2017?

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What is ICAN?

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons came to life only ten years before winning the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. Officially formed in Vienna on the sidelines of a nuclear non-proliferation conference, the non-profit functions as a global umbrella organization that unites groups working towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons. ICAN has 468 partner groups in 101 countries.

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The perfect 10th birthday present

In naming ICAN as the Nobel Prize recipient (above), the Norwegian Nobel Committee highlighted the Geneva-based organization's "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." An ICAN spokesperson said it was "elated" to have won the prestigious award.

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Focusing on the human risks

In its work to totally ban nuclear weapons, ICAN highlights their high humanitarian costs and their potential to unleash total environmental, medical and ecological descruction. It earned a significant victory when the UN adopted a new nuclear treaty in July 2017. However. ICAN's President Beatrice Fihn (above) has insisted that its work won't end until all nuclear weapons are gone.

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A nuclear era?

The 2017 Nobel award reflects the return of nuclear escalations to the front burner of international politics, in large part due to the increasingly active nuclear ambitions of North Korea and the standoff between Donald Trump and Iran over the 2015 nuclear deal. However, ICAN's nuclear non-proliferation efforts were praised early on, including by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012.

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Worldwide support

The Geneva-based ICAN has tens of thousands of activists working around the world, including a German branch in Berlin. It's high-profile supporters include singer and artists Yoko Ono, the Dalai Lama and 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner and anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. But until now the small group that dreams of a nuclear weapon-free world was only really known to defense experts.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons is a coalition of non-governmental organizations that promotes adherence to and ratification of a United Nations ban on nuclear weapons. ICAN won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. 

Nobel committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen described the Geneva-based organization as a "driving force in prevailing upon the world's nations to pledge to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons."

It began in Australia and was launched internationally in Austria in 2007. The founders of ICAN based their model on the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Read more: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons receives the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize

In 2017 the UN  adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by a wide margin, prohibiting the stockpiling, production, testing, and use of nuclear weapons. Having the agreement ratified by signatories has become the goal of ICAN after years of lobbying to have such a resolution passed.

The treaty needs at least 50 nations to sign on and ratify before it comes into effect, but it has been largely ignored by nuclear-armed nations.

Nuclear-armed states include Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, India, China, France, the UK, Russia and the US. None have signed the agreement.

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Anti-nuclear campaign ICAN wins 2017 Nobel Peace Prize

ICAN has partners in more than 100 countries and endorsements from people including former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Dalai Lama and Martin Sheen.

Read more: The Nobel Prizes - what you need to know

The group organizes global days of action, runs public awareness campaigns, and lobbies the UN and national parliaments.

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It aims to put the "catastrophic, persistent effects of nuclear weapons on our health, societies and the environment" at the center of discussions about nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Accepting the prize, ICAN said: "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."

"This prize is a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who, ever since the dawn of the atomic age, have loudly protested nuclear weapons, insisting that they can serve no legitimate purpose and must be forever banished from the face of our earth."

ICAN praised the treaty as a vital route to rid the world of nuclear weapons, saying it applauded the nations that had already signed and ratified the agreement, which include just Thailand, Guyana and the Vatican.

UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci told reporters the prize would hopefully lead to more nations signing and ratifying the treaty.