Over the decades, the Nobel Peace Prize and its decision-making committee has come under great criticism for a number of obvious controversies. But no lover of peace can fault Nobel Prize 2017, a glorious affirmation of the work of the grassroots-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). A truly global effort with leaders from every continent, ICAN led the very effective push at the United Nations for the first legally-binding treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons — adopted this past July 2017 and signed in September.
Followers of my photo essays and peace work will know that I have had more than a passing interest in the work of (and alliances with) many Nobel Peace laureates, but — short of being there myself — I can think of no better way to close this strange year than through the experiences and photos of dear friends and colleagues, Emily Welty and Matthew Bolton, cheering on the wonderful Setsuko Thurlow and all of ICAN. This is a VICTORY FOR ALL OF US!
Setsuko has long been an articulate and outspoken leader of the Hibakusha community — the Japanese group of survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who have devoted their lives to the abolition of all atomic and nuclear arms. Also an ardent supporter of the Plowshares disarmament community, the photos here of Setsuko and I are from the parking lot of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum — where a number of us a few years ago (on the anniversary of the bombing) staged a protest at the exhibit of the plane which dropped the deadly cargo.
Emily and Matthew and I are all leaders of the International Peace Research Association United Nations team, Emily also representing the World Council of Churches (WCC). WCC was a major part of the ICAN coalition, and Emily and Matthew played a particularly vital role working at UN headquarters for the passing of the nuclear ban treaty.
When the Nobel committee announced in October that ICAN would be the 2017 Nobel Peace recipient, ICAN quickly and brilliantly chose Setsuko to join them in accepting the award, along with ICAN director Beatrice Fihn. Emily and Matthew got their invites to the Oslo ceremony, and took us along for the ride with photos and messages of hope.
Photos from and of them here show the massive gatherings the day before the December 10 (International Human Rights Day) awarding of the prize — bringing together ICAN members from around the world. Even the bars had ICAN symbols and greetings! We see the WCC candle-light vigil held the night before the awarding. The award ceremony itself brought together many dignitaries and colleagues, including former recipient Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala. More celebrations in the streets of Oslo continued after the ceremony itself was over.
We thank, love, and celebrate with Emily and Matthew, of whom we are all so proud. We congratulate Setsuko, Beatrice, ICAN and all those who have worked for nuclear and total disarmament and abolition, long deserving of the world’s spotlight — and to be especially celebrated for the strategic and creative ways in which they have brought this issue to us in these urgent times. We appreciate WCC photographer Albin Hillert, responsible for some of the great photos included in this album.
AND…We re-double our own efforts — realizing that sometimes non-governmental organizations (even ones based around the UN!) CAN make a world of difference, that campaigning after decades CAN sometimes result in concrete advances, that alliances across international lines CAN (AND DO) make us all stronger, and that we CAN AND MUST work more intensively — to seize victories wherever they are possible!!