OSLO, Norway – The Norwegian Nobel Committee once bestowed its prestigious peace prize to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu each in their fight to end Apartheid. President Obama earned it for his ability to unite the masses in the name of hope. Malala stood up to the Taliban for girls’ education, and she too won its acknowledgement. This year, the committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for its work to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
ICAN is a coalition of non-governmental organizations based in over 100 different countries. According to the statement from the Nobel Committee, “This coalition of partner organizations around the world has been 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.”
This summer, I documented ICAN as they successfully lobbied for the historic ban on nuclear weapons adopted by 122 member states in the United Nations. To date, not a single nuclear-armed state or any of its allies have signed the treaty. However, after 50 or more signing countries ratify this treaty will enter into force with our without the nuclear armed states.
This year’s Nobel Peace Prize went to ICAN for its critical role in bringing the treaty negotiations into fruition after 10 years of organizing civil society around the world. They held international prep conferences starting in 2013 in Oslo, Norway, and 2014 in Vienna, Austria, and Nayarit, Mexico. These led up to the UN treaty negotiations. After 50 signing countries take it home and ratify it within their own governments, it will be enforced as international law.
Setusuko Thurlow, survivor from Hiroshima, and Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN, accepted the award on the group, but they represent a small portion.
I recently gave a TEDxFulbright talk at the US Capitol. I detailed what it is exactly we can learn from the survivor testimony. My role in ICAN has been storyteller. I’ve been working with atomic bomb survivors since 2011, recording their testimony and forwarding their stories to the next generation. The humanitarian approach to nuclear weapons has resonated with people worldwide, and propelled us to this moment. As Beatrice Fihn said in her Nobel Lecture, “It’s either the end of the weapons, or the end of us.”
Ari Beser is the author of The Nuclear Family and filmmaker who used his Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship (2015-2016) to give voice to the hundreds of thousands of people directly affected by nuclear technology today. He is the grandson of Lt. Jacob Beser, the only U.S. serviceman aboard both B-29s that dropped atomic bombs on Japan during World War II.
Ari M. Beser is the grandson of Lt. Jacob Beser, the only U.S. serviceman aboard both bomb-carrying B-29s. He is traveling through Japan with the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship to report on the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima. Using photo essays, videos, and articles, Beser will give voice to people directly affected by nuclear technology today, as well as work with Japanese and Americans to encourage a message of reconciliation and nuclear disarmament. His new book, “The Nuclear Family," focuses on the American and Japanese perspectives of the atomic bombings.
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