The committee said ICAN had received the prize for "its 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."
"We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time. Some states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals and there is a real danger that more nations will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea. Nuclear weapons pose a constant threat to humanity and all life on earth," the Nobel Committee said.
It added: "It is the firm conviction of the Norwegian Nobel Committee that ICAN, more than anyone else, has in the past year given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigor."
The committee also emphasized that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN was meant to send a signal to nuclear-armed states to consider their responsibilities with regard to disarmament.
Positive international reactions
A spokeswoman for the German government said Germany supported the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and congratulated the committee on its decision.
The UN called the award "a good omen" for the eventual ratification of a treaty banning nuclear weapons that was signed by 122 countries in July.
ICAN played a major role in bringing about the treaty. However, the agreement is largely symbolic, as none of the nine known world nuclear powers signed up to it.
NATO has given a far more reserved reception to the announcement of ICAN's win, saying "realities" of global security must be considered in all bids to ban nuclear weapons.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it was good that the Nobel Committee had drawn attention to the issue of disarmament with its choice and that the alliance continued to be committed to creating the conditions for a world free from nuclear weapons.
But he reiterated his criticism of the recent treaty, saying that a "verifiable and balanced reduction of nuclear weapons" as enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should be the emphasis for now. NATO would remain a nuclear alliance as long as nuclear weapons existed, he added.
According to its own description, the Geneva-based ICAN brings together grassroots non-government groups in more than 100 nations to form a coalition. It started off in Australia, and was officially launched in Vienna in 2007.
In a statement released after the announcement of its win, ICAN called it a "great honor" to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The prize was a tribute not only "to the tireless efforts of milions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide," but also to "the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — the hibakusha — and victims of nuclear test explosions around the world," the statement said.Nukeless nations sign ban shunned by atomic powers
'Risk of ending the world'
The prize "sends a message to all nuclear-armed states and all states that continue to rely on nuclear weapons for security that it is unacceptable behavior," ICAN executive director Beatrice Fihn told reporters in Geneva.
In an interview with the news agency AFP this week, Fihn said there was an urgent need to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
"Nuclear weapons have the risk of literally ending the world," she said.
"As long as they exist, the risk will be there, and eventually our luck will run out."
Each prize is worth 9 million kronor (€944,597, $1.1 million). The prize ceremonies take place annually in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, except that for the peace prize, which is held in Oslo, Norway.
This year, the five-member Nobel Committee, which is appointed by the Norwegian parliament, sorted through 318 nominations, including 215 individiduals and 103 organizations. It does not release the names of nominees for 50 years.
The prize honors not only accomplishments, but also intentions in the field of peacemaking.
A longstanding discussion
When the first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Henry Dunant of Switzerland (left) and Frederic Passy of France (right) in 1901, the Nobel Commission was divided. Dunant had founded the International Red Cross and, together with Passy, initiated the Geneva Conventions. The commission's members feared that by making war more humane, the Geneva Conventions could make it more acceptable.
Warrior and peacekeeper
US President Theodore Roosevelt was never seen as a pacifist – he had urged war against Spain. After that, he helped Cubans to free themselves from colonialism, but US troops soon arrived in Cuba, ensuring the island remained under de facto US control. Roosevelt received the prize for another commitment: his peace efforts in the Russo-Japanese war.
The racist peacemaker
The 28th US President, Woodrow Wilson, also received a prize "for his contributions to the end of World War I and the founding of the League of Nations," the precursor to the UN. But he also believed in the superiority of whites and was a supporter of segregation who praised the Ku Klux Klan.
Peace prize without peace
US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Vietnamese politburo member Le Duc Tho played a decisive role in the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, aimed at ending the conflict. However, Tho refused to accept the prize. While the US largely withdrew after the accords, the conflict in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia would last another two years.
From putsch to Peace Prize
Egypt's President Anwar al-Sadat (left) joined Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin (right) to agree to peace between the two countries. In 1978, they were honored for the Camp David Agreement. But the prize for Sadat caused a stir: He was a senior member of the secret "Free Officers" who had overthrown King Farouk in 1952.
Peacekeeping and dirty business
The blue Helmets are the peacekeeing forces of the United Nations. They were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work in 1988. However, they came under massive criticism in subsequent years: the troops were accused of sexually abusing women and children and forced them into prostitution. In the genocide in Rwanda, and in the massacre at Srebrenica, they were blamed for standing idly by.
The man with two faces
Although he was regarded as an advocate of apartheid before his time as a South African president, F.W. de Klerk played a key role in the abolition of racial separation in South Africa. He freed Nelson Mandela and other African National Congress politicians from prison, championed the freedom of the press, and abolished the apartheid laws. In 1993 he and Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize.
A terrorist with a Nobel Peace Prize
There was uproar in 1994, when Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres received the award for their peace efforts in the Middle East. A Norwegian politician resigned in protest from the Nobel Committee, calling Arafat an "unworthy winner."
A 'better and more peaceful world' thanks to the UN?
Both the UN and its Secretary General, Kofi Annan, received the 2001 Nobel Prize – "for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world." But critics accuse the UN of not upholding these ideals and of frequent failure. Individual states are able to block resolutions and joint action in the UN Security Council.
Advance laurels for Barack Obama
Barack Obama had only been US president for nine months when he received the award for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Critics thought it came much too early. Later, Obama ordered military intervention – including the mission to kill terrorist Osama bin Laden, which was highly controversial under international law.
'Nonviolent struggle' and a war criminal
Liberia's former President Charles Taylor was convicted of war crimes tied to thousands of cases of murder, rape and torture. Critics accuse his successor Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, once Taylor's finance minister, of supporting his violence and corruption. Nevertheless, in 2011 she was honored for her "nonviolent struggle for the safety of women." She claimed the prize during her re-election campaign.
Questionable treatment of asylum seekers
Barbed-wire fences, detention, inhumane conditions in refugee camps: Human rights activists have been criticizing the EU's refugee policies for years. Even so, the European Union was honored in 2012 for its "advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe."