From: Featured Documentaries

The Nobel Interview: Beatrice Fihn of ICAN

Al Jazeera’s exclusive interview with the director of the anti-nuclear campaign that won the Nobel Peace Prize.

This year, 2017, was a year in which tensions between North Korea and US over nuclear capabilities flared up. 

Multiple missile launches, provocative statements, mocking tweets and fiery rhetoric deepened the standoff between North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump

Many fear that their war of words could bring the world to the brink of nuclear conflict. 

Against this backdrop, the Norwegian Nobel committee awarded this year’s Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The coalition of non-governmental organisations in 100 countries was honoured for its successful push for a United Nations treaty banning nuclear weapons. 

In Oslo, Al Jazeera speaks with ICAN executive director Beatrice Fihn on December 10.

READ MORE: 2017 Nobel Peace Prize – What is ICAN?

“[Winning the prize] means everything to us. The campaign is full of people from all over the world who’ve worked tirelessly on this issue for many decades,” she says.

“It’s a tough issue, it’s underresourced, you’ll be mocked for being naive or idealistic, so to get this recognition means so much to our campaigners and partner organisations all over the world.” 

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted on July 7, 2017 and has since been signed by more than 50 countries. 

But conspicuous in their absence are key nations with nuclear capabilities including the US, the UK, Russia and China. 

“We go ahead and ban their weapons even without them,” says Fihn. “We have mobilised the whole rest of the world agaisnt nuclear weapons and that is having an impact on them, whether or not they want to join this.”

Fihn rejects the notion that nuclear weapons might make the world a safer place by deterring countries from going to war for fear of total destruction by nuclear weapons. 

“We’ve been so close to catastrophe throughout the Cold War, and now decades after when documents are being declassified, we’re finding more and more about accidents, near-misses and irrational presidents.

“And just look at today. I mean, we also had a war with Iraq that was fuelled by threats of weapons of mass destruction. We have conflict with Iran. We have Kashmir … Look at this situation between North Korea and the US. This does not feel safe. This does not feel like peace or stability.

“Nuclear weapons are fuelling these conflicts and making the threat of war much more likely.” 

Despite this year’s rise in tensions between nuclear powers, Fihn is hopeful her children will see a world free of nuclear weapons in their lifetime. 

“I think change can happen really fast once it starts. And we have seen the world take huge steps forwards before. We have made so much progress on big social issues: justice issues, women’s right to vote, civil rights, end of apartheid, gay marriage – things that people said ‘It’s impossibe, it’s never going to happen’ and ‘Oh, you’re being naive’.

“And then it happens and it just opens the gates and it changes very quickly.”