The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), launched in Vienna in 2007, was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for “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.” ICAN is a coalition consisting of several hundred non-government organisations, from local peace groups to global federations, that is promoting adherence to and implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This landmark global agreement was adopted in New York on 7 July 2017. Today, ICAN receives the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo and our DA alumna Philine Scherer-Dressler (DLG and MAIS, 2011-13), Deputy Head of ICAN Österreich, shares her experiences and insights with us.
How did you get involved with ICAN?
After graduating from the DA in 2013, I was doing an internship in the non-proliferation department at the MFA in Austria, when I began having contact with ICAN on a work-related basis. After my internship, I fully engaged with ICAN. Currently I am working in the European Parliament, but I am very actively involved with ICAN here in Brussels and I am still part of the team of ICAN Austria.
What does the Nobel Peace Prize mean to you and ICAN?
The Treaty, which was adopted in July this year and supported by 120 states, was a major success after almost a decade of campaigning. At the beginning, I remember, we were the target of ridicule and people thought what we wanted to achieve was impossible and naïve. Therefore, this prize is a sign that our hard work was not pointless, and it is a good recognition that the way we want to achieve our goal is the right way. But also, financially it is a positive surprise for ICAN, because that is the way we can keep our campaigns alive.
What will happen after the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize?
We want to use the attention to inform people of the threats that nuclear weapons pose to our world. Especially in times like these, when nuclear threats are spoken out easily, we want to condemn everyone who dares to do so on the same level. Because a threat posed by Donald Trump is as dangerous as one posed by Kim Jong-un. Our responsibility now is to raise awareness that nuclear weapons are not used as a deterrence measure.
How did you receive the good news?
I was working when my colleagues came in and told me that it was on the news. We immediately gathered together in front of the Belgian MFA and celebrated this once-in-a-lifetime experience.