International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

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International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
Founded 2007 in Melbourne, Australia
Type Non-profit international campaign
Headquarters Geneva, Switzerland
Field Nuclear disarmament
Leader Beatrice Fihn

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (abbreviated to ICAN; pronounced /ˈkæn/ EYE-kan) is a global civil society coalition working to promote adherence to and full implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The campaign helped bring about this treaty. ICAN was launched in 2007 and today counts 468 partner organizations in 101 countries.


ICAN seeks to shift the disarmament debate to focus on the humanitarian threat posed by nuclear weapons, drawing attention to their unique destructive capacity, their catastrophic health and environmental consequences, their indiscriminate targeting, the debilitating impact of a detonation on medical infrastructure and relief measures, and the long-lasting effects of radiation on the surrounding area.[1]

Founders of ICAN were inspired by the success of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which was pivotal in bringing about the negotiation of the anti-personnel mine ban treaty in 1997. They sought to establish a similar campaign model.[2]


Launch of ICAN in Melbourne, Australia, in 2007

In September 2006, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War adopted a proposal at its biennial congress in Helsinki, Finland, to launch ICAN globally.[3] ICAN was launched publicly at two events, the first on 23 April 2007 in Melbourne, Australia, where funds had been raised to establish the campaign, and the second on 30 April 2007 in Vienna at a meeting of State parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. National campaigns have been organized in dozens of countries in every region of the world.

Membership and Support[edit]

ICAN is made up of 468 partner organizations in 101 countries. The campaign's staff team is located in Geneva, Switzerland, from where it provides ongoing coordination and management of the campaign .

An International Steering Group (ISG) oversees the campaign. Current members of the ISG include the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, Article 36, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Norwegian Peoples Aid, PAX, Peace Boat, the Latin America Human Security Network (SEHLAC), Swedish Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.


ICAN campaigners in Mexico in 2014

· July 7, 2017: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is adopted at the United Nations by a vote of 122-1. The Treaty, which prohibits the development, testing, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, transfer, use, and threatened use of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, will enter into force once it has been ratified by 50 states. ICAN calls the TPNW "a landmark international agreement that outlaws, categorically, the worst weapons of mass destruction and establishes a pathway to their elimination."

· October 27, 2016: UN First Committee adopts a landmark, ICAN-supported resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. ICAN calls on all states to participate in the negotiations, stating that “every nation has an interest in ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used again, which can only be guaranteed through their complete elimination."[4]

· February–August 2016: ICAN campaigns actively at UN Open-Ended Working Group in Geneva, which recommends by a large majority of 107 participating States that the General Assembly authorize negotiations on “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” ICAN calls the OEWG recommendation “a breakthrough in the seven-decade-long global struggle to rid the world of the worst weapons of mass destruction.”[5]

· November 2, 2015: UN General Assembly establishes Open-Ended Working Group to review the evidence of catastrophic humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and to make concrete recommendations for taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament. ICAN calls on the OEWG “to begin the serious practical work of developing the elements for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.”

· November 2015: After mobilizing campaigners behind the Humanitarian Pledge for almost a year, ICAN takes significant credit for bringing 127 onto the Pledge as signatories; another 23 States vote in favor of Pledge goals at General Assembly.

· August 6–7, 2015: ICAN campaigners organize worldwide events to commemorate the 70th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

· December 2014: More than 600 ICAN campaigners gather in Vienna on the eve of the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. ICAN tells conference participants “a new legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons would constitute a long overdue implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.” At the conference conclusion, Austria issues historic Humanitarian Pledge to work with all stakeholders “to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.”[6]

· October 26, 2014: 155 States, an increase of 30 from the previous year, submit joint humanitarian appeal for nuclear disarmament at UN General Assembly.

· July 1, 2014: Beatrice Fihn is appointed ICAN Executive Director.

· February 2014: Nayarit Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons attended by 146 States and more than a hundred civil society campaigners. ICAN tells participants “the claim by some states that they continue to need these weapons to deter their adversaries has been exposed by the evidence presented at this conference…as a reckless and unsanctionable gamble with our future.” At conference conclusion, Mexico calls for the start of a diplomatic process to negotiate a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons.

· August 30, 2013: UN working group highlights humanitarian concerns about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear detonations and the need for non-nuclear nations to push forward.

· March 2013: ICAN coordinates civil society participation at historic Oslo Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, an unprecedented gathering of States to evaluate the scientific evidence about the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons.

· March 5, 2012: ICAN launches “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” global divestment initiative.[7]

· November 26, 2011: ICAN welcomes historic resolution adopted by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement in favor of an international agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons.[8]

· June 27, 2011: P5 nations (the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China) meet in Paris to discuss ways to improve transparency in relation to their nuclear weapons. ICAN releases a video challenging them to do much more.

· May 28, 2010: ICAN campaigners at the NPT Review Conference in New York call on governments to support a nuclear weapons convention. While references to a convention are included in the final document, ICAN is already considering a shift in strategy toward a new treaty banning nuclear weapons in order to empower non-nuclear-weapon states to assume more effective leadership.

· April 30, 2007: ICAN is launched internationally during the Non-Proliferation Treaty preparatory committee meeting in Vienna.

· September 7, 2006: International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the 1985 Nobel Peace Laureate, adopts ICAN as top campaign priority at its world congress in Helsinki, Finland. IPPNW’s Australian affiliate, MAPW, commits to fundraising and providing coordination for a campaign launch in 2007.


Michael Douglas with ICAN executive director Beatrice Fihn

A number of prominent individuals have lent their support to the campaign, including Nobel Peace Prize laureates Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and Jody Williams, the musician Herbie Hancock, the cricketer Ian Chappell, the actors Martin Sheen and Michael Douglas, and the artist Yoko Ono.

In November 2012, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, praised ICAN and its partners "for working with such commitment and creativity in pursuit of our shared goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world".[9] Earlier, he had provided a video message to ICAN in support of its global day of action.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ IPPNW (2016). "The health and humanitarian case for banning and eliminating nuclear weapons." (PDF). IPPNW. Retrieved January 12, 2017. 
  2. ^ "The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons", Ronald McCoy, 30 April 2016
  3. ^ [1] Campaign milestones 2006] ICAN website
  4. ^ ICAN (December 23, 2016). "UN General Assembly approves historic resolution". ICAN. Retrieved January 12, 2017. 
  5. ^ ICAN (August 19, 2016). "Majority of UN members declare intention to negotiate ban on nuclear weapons in 2017". ICAN. Retrieved January 12, 2017. 
  6. ^ "Humanitarian Pledge" (PDF). Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. December 9, 2014. Retrieved January 12, 2017. 
  7. ^ "Don't Bank on the Bomb". PAX/ICAN. Retrieved January 12, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Working towards the elimination of nuclear weapons; Council of Delegates 2011: Resolution 1". International Committee of the Red Cross. November 26, 2011. Retrieved January 12, 2017. 
  9. ^ Letter from the UN Secretary-General, sent to ICAN, 2 November 2012
  10. ^ Ban Ki-moon's message to ICAN, June 2010

External links[edit]