Beatrice Fihn is the Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning campaign coalition that works to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. She accepted the Nobel Peace Prize and delivered the Nobel Lecture in Oslo on behalf of the campaign. Beatrice has over a decade of experience in disarmament diplomacy and civil society mobilization, through her work with ICAN, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. This is part of a series of interviews featuring the authors in our new report, A New Vision: Gender. Justice. National Security. Beatrice authored the essay titled "Time to Ban the Bomb" from the report.
How can nuclear war be avoided?
By getting rid of all nuclear weapons.
As Bertrand Russell said at the dawn of the nuclear age, “You may reasonably expect a man to walk a tightrope safely for ten minutes; it would be unreasonable to do so without accident for two hundred years.” We are currently at over seven decades and the US has contracts to maintain nuclear weapons through 2075. Our luck will run out, and any security system based on luck is not a sustainable one.
What inspires you to continue this work?
My amazing colleagues around the world. Each day I wake up to find emails and instagram posts detailing something incredible they have done to push for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. We have 23 ratifications already thanks to their work. Working together, with amazing people makes any change making work more a joy than a challenge.
How can someone support your work?
Everyone has a role to play. Find out if your bank is involved in nuclear weapons at dontbankonthebomb.com and change banks or urge them to move their money. Join us at nuclearban.org and learn if your representatives or your city are supporting the nuclear ban treaty. And of course, giving is always great because we have so many campaigners in 100 countries who can influence their governments.
How do you measure progress in this field?
Shifting law. Shifting norms. Shifting culture. That’s how we will get rid of nuclear weapons. We need to change international and domestic law to ban nuclear weapons…as we have with the TPNW. We need the private sector to understand that these are WMD that they can have nothing to do with. We need culture to highlight the truth of nuclear weapons and help grow this movement.
Who inspires you?
Young campaigners against nuclear weapons. Young people I met from places that have been impacted by nuclear weapons like the Marshall Islands. Young people easily recognize how insane the status quo is and have amazing, creative ways to share that message.
How do you think including more diverse voices will affect your field of work?
One of the things I’m proud of about this campaign and the TPNW is that we have always strived to keep diverse voices at the forefront. Diversity brings creativity and often a clear-eyed honesty that doesn’t buy into the BS about nuclear weapons. The majority of victims are from communities often marginalized and it’s vital that we put them first in this work.
What is the best book you read recently?
Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild! It is an amazing book about the campaign against slavery. It reminded me of how similar these revolutionary campaigns along history have been. We need to look at revolutionary campaigns in history in order to change our future.
Photo: Beatrice Fihn speaking at the Ploughshares Fund event, "Nuclear Weapons Policy in a Time of Crisis" in Washington, DC, November 2017. Photo by Allison Shelley.