Beatrice Fihn. Photo: ICAN
We are putting the spotlight on women who have paved the way – the bold and the brave – and we know there are and can be many more of them.
We are pushing for #MoreWomenMorePeace.
A lot has happened since Beatrice Fihn left her childhood home in Angered, outside Gothenburg in western Sweden. Since 2014, 34-year-old Beatrice has been Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. She is now also a familiar face to prominent politicians and diplomats, including in various UN contexts.
Beatrice Fihn grew up in a home where social issues were discussed on a daily basis. Her mother is an artist and her father a folk high school teacher, and their keen interest in social issues had a major impact on Beatrice Fihn’s life. She became engaged in politics – particularly environmental issues and human rights – at an early age, which led her on to studies in the fields of security policy and nuclear issues.
Although she was very interested in her studies, she rapidly realised that theory could not fully explain reality in discussions of security and nuclear weapons issues. While at university, Beatrice completed an internship at the Swedish branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). The internship subsequently led to the WILPF headquarters in Geneva, where she was soon able to engage in practical action surrounding the UN’s Conference on Disarmament and Committee on Human Rights.
“In Geneva I learned about realpolitik, and the importance parties sometimes attach to the placement of a comma,” she said in an interview with her alma mater, Stockholm University.
After completing her studies, Beatrice Fihn moved back to Geneva and for four years led the WILPF’s disarmament action, including monitoring the ongoing disarmament negotiations. During this time she was elected to ICAN’s International Steering Group, later being appointed Executive Director.
ICAN is an umbrella organisation bringing together 468 non-governmental organisations in 100 countries working against nuclear weapons. There are currently nine nuclear weapons states in the world, and no indications that these countries will phase out their nuclear weapons programmes in the near future.
But since 2007, an increasing number of countries, stakeholders and organisations have also been fighting for a UN convention banning nuclear weapons. This became a reality this year, when 122 members of the UN adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – thanks in no small part to Beatrice Fihn’s persistent efforts through ICAN.
On 6 October this year, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that ICAN would receive the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, with the following motivation:
“The organisation is receiving the award 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.”
The Nobel Peace Prize will draw attention to ICAN’s tireless work to rid the world of nuclear weapons, and Beatrice Fihn expressed her immense gratitude when the prize was announced:
“This prize is a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who, ever since the dawn of the atomic age, have loudly protested against nuclear weapons, insisting that they can serve no legitimate purpose and must be forever banished from the face of our earth.
It’s also a tribute to the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and victims of nuclear test explosions around the world, whose searing testimonies and unstinting advocacy were instrumental in securing this landmark agreement.”
Beatrice Fihn wants to reduce the attraction of nuclear weapons by changing the prevailing standards and values among decision-makers. She is leading the fight against nuclear weapons, and her patience makes her strong. Working with disarmament issues can be frustrating and at times complicated, but Beatrice Fihn is living proof that a thorough and strategic approach pays dividends.
Thanks to women like Beatrice, more opportunities are being created for other women to take their place at the negotiating tables of the world.
Written by Linus Erlandsson