Nobel Peace Prize winner ICAN Germany says work has been 'under the radar'

ICAN Germany spokesperson Anne Balzer said the award is an honor and a sign of recognition for the organization's work toward nuclear disarmament. It is also a slap in the face for Washington, she told DW.

DW: First off, I would like to congratulate you for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons' (ICAN) winning this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Politics | 06.10.2017

Anne Balzer: Thank you. You are the first call. We are still trying to let it all sink in.

How did you find out about the Nobel committee's decision?

We were watching it live, because various peace organizations had proposed us to the committee, but we could hardly believe it. There were so many other candidates that have also been engaged in peaceful politics for years. 

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Anti-nuke group ICAN wins Nobel

Why is ICAN the right award recipient at this point in time?

If you look at the tension between North Korea and the USA, then you can clearly see that now is the right time. The situation verbally escalates every day. And this award shows that honor is being paid to the 123 nations that took a step in the opposite direction in July, a step in the direction of disarmament and policies of peace. With the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons they even stepped up against the United State's dominate game of scaremongering over North Korea.

Friedensnobelpreis 2017 ICAN Anne Balzer, Pressesprecherin ICAN Deutschland

What is the status of this treaty? Has it already entered into force?

The treaty is currently in the process of being ratified. It was publically released shortly before being signed. And that is also a signal to states that are perhaps not yet sure how they can implement the treaty.

Your work normally flies under the radar of public attention. What is the feeling like now?

It is a feeling of recognition. We have been working since 2007, and, yes, mostly under the radar. Even in July, when the nuclear prohibition treaty was adopted, media attention, at least German media attention, was focused on the G20 protests [in Hamburg]. It was really hard to just get our message across. The committee's decision today is naturally an honor, and it recognizes the whole process.

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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.

An honor for you. And also a slap in the face of Washington D.C.?

Definitely a slap in the face for Washington. But also for Russia and North Korea. 

Ms. Balzer, thank you for the interview!

Anne Balzer is the press spokesperson for ICAN Germany.