ICAN: prophets not honoured at home

In Matthew the Bible quotes Jesus saying: “A prophet is not without honour except in his home town, and in his own home.”

The Australian winners of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) will today be celebrating the ratification by 50 countries of The Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons thus allowing the historic though symbolic text to come into force after 90 days.

However, the celebrations won’t be marked by the Morrison Government..

The Government refuses to sign the Treaty and has refused to congratulate ICAN on winning the Prize.

It’s an act of churlishness which could be understood in Trump’s America or Putin’s Russia but not in most other countries.

None of the nuclear nations – the US, UK, France, China and Russia have signed the new treaty and Trump is urging the 50 who did to rescind their support.

He is also planning to withdraw the US from the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a multilateral treaty that bans all nuclear tests, for both civilian and military purposes, in all environments.

Australia has signed the Comprehensive Ban but one has to wonder what the Australian Government would do if a new Trump administration asked it to withdraw as well.

After Honduras became the 50th country to ratify the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said it was “the culmination of a worldwide movement to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons”.

The campaign was given a boost by the August commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after which a surge of countries signed up.

Nations and activists who have pushed for the Treaty hope it will be more than symbolic and have a gradual deterrent effect. This may seem overly optimistic but there were pessimists about whether the partial test ban treaty in 1966 would ever progress further.

Progress was made nevertheless partly thanks to some activists from Melbourne – the  ICAN founders Dimity Hawkins, Bill Williams, Tilman Ruff , Sue Wareham and Dave Sweeney.

ICAN says: “In 2005 disarmament diplomacy was at a crisis point. The Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference had failed dismally in the United Nations. The subsequent World Summit of heads of state failed to deliver any progress on nuclear disarmament. The war on terror, including a war declared on the spurious grounds of supposed nuclear weapons in Iraq, was occupying our minds and the streets of the Middle East.

“ICAN was sparked in Australia through collaborations led by the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).

“Distinguished Malaysian obstetrician Datuk Dr Ron McCoy first proposed the establishment of ICAN in 2005, modelled on the successful International Campaign to Ban Landmines. He put out a call to colleagues in 2005 through IPPNW advocating ‘lateral thinking and a new approach to nuclear disarmament’, an idea he called ICAN.”

They worked with nuclear free campaigners in Australia and around the world and were endorsed as the campaigning vehicle at IPPNW’s world congress in Helsinki in 2006 when its International Council unanimously endorsed ICAN as the campaigning vehicle for the work to eradicate nuclear weapons.

It is now a coalition of non-governmental organizations promoting adherence to and implementation of the United Nations nuclear weapon ban treaty.

ICAN’s establishment was underwritten by a grant from the Poola Foundation (Tom Kantor Fund). This enabled the first office of ICAN to be opened in Carlton, Melbourne in mid-2006 and to coordinate the materials and events that launched the campaign.

For non-Melbournians the Kantor family are prominent philanthropists and Ann Kantor is the daughter of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch and Sir Keith Murdoch.

ICAN has no illusions about the difficulty of the rest of the battle but it takes hope from the struggles to pass previous international treaties on landmines and cluster munitions and their impact on world opinion.