The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a coalition of 468 non-governmental organizations in 100 countries promoting adherence to and implementation of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This landmark global treaty was adopted in New York on 7 July 2017.
ICAN began in Australia and was officially launched in 2007; its main office is based in Geneva. ICAN was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize “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”.
Peace Boat has worked closely with ICAN since its early years, and serves as the ICAN anchor in Japan, coordinating advocacy within the country.
Following the cooperation in 2009-2010 of ICAN Founding Chair Dr. Tilman Ruff and Peace Boat’s Kawasaki Akira as civil society NGO Advisers to the Co-Chairs of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND), initiated by the governments of Japan and Australia, Peace Boat officially became part of ICAN, and Kawasaki became its Vice Chair.
Subsequently, Kawasaki served as Co-Chair of ICAN from August 2012 to June 2014, together with Dr. Ruff and Dr. Rebecca Johnson of the Acronym Institute, UK.
In July 2014, ICAN adopted a flat structure with no permanent individual chairs, and since then Peace Boat has been one of 10 organizations forming ICAN’s International Steering Group, represented by Kawasaki. Peace Boat played a significant role in negotiations to strengthen the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. As coordinator of the Japan NGO Network for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Peace Boat promotes corporation amongst NGOs as well as dialogue between civil society and the Japanese government.
Peace Boat has long worked in collaboration with Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors), and since 2008, has invited Hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to participate in the “Global Voyage for a Nuclear-Free World: Peace Boat Hibakusha Project.” As of 2017, over 170 Hibakusha have travelled around the world giving personal testimonies about the effects of the atomic bombs and calling for nuclear abolition in 59 countries and 84 cities. These testimony sessions are organized in cooperation with ICAN partners around the world, as well as member cities of Mayors for Peace.
A Hibakusha’s testimonial has the potential to deeply move people from all over the world and to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences these weapons cause. These testimonies constitute the foundations of the movement to prohibit nuclear weapons under international humanitarian law. As the average age of the Hibakusha is now close to 80 years old, the time remaining to hear directly from them is very limited.
The Hibakusha and victims of nuclear test explosions around the world played a pivotal role in the negotiations that led to the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Peace Boat will continue the Hibakusha project, calling on all states to sign and ratify the treaty.
Since the announcement on 6 October that the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize would be awarded to ICAN, Peace Boat has organized a series of events relating to this renewed momentum towards nuclear disarmament. These included a press conference at Peace Boat centre which several Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) attended, a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) (see full report here), and press conferences and celebratory events with Hibakusha in Hiroshima, as well as Nagasaki (forthcoming).