Abolishing nuclear weapons: campaigning in Geneva

ICAN: not the latest Apple gadget, but an abbreviation for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons. ICAN is a network of NGOs focused on the fight against atomic bombs. On the eve of the NPT review Preparatory Committee (April 22nd – May 3rd 2013), ICAN has convened a two-day meeting to coordinate lobbying actions and negotiation activities.

By Nicander van Duijn*


With about a 100 representatives, a full agenda and large amounts of (bad) coffee, the ICAN meeting is a slightly informal affair. There are moderated discussions, but the campaigners are also open to friendly chitchat over drinks. The meeting is fairly practical: how to expand national campaigns, how to encourage governments to work together, and how to lobby? We share information, tactics and tips on how to go about the NPT conference in the coming days. Because that is where the main challenge lies: the official NPT PrepCom. We want countries to speak out against nuclear weapons, call for their abolishment and underline the humanitarian consequences of the bomb. There is a strong believe within ICAN that civil society plays a crucial role not only in raising awareness about this issue, but also in actively helping governments in disarmament. Treaties, resolutions, statements, and government policy is being drafted, ready to be introduced.

So far, our Geneva experience consists of coordinating efforts, meeting dozens of campaigners, and sharing our lobbying experiences. We follow workshops on the use of social media, lobbying skills, and regional working groups. It’s particularly interesting to talk with the other youth groups, as well as the larger delegations. We gain lots of new insights and perspectives, and we also get to know each other better. Besides coordinating activities in the conference hall during the day, we also find time to meet with other delegates for drinks at night.

The coming days will be intense: there is a lot of lobbying to be done, much questions to be asked, information to be understood, and policy to be explained. Our agenda includes meetings with the American, Belgian, Dutch and Swiss delegations, briefings on implementation, debates on abolition, and lectures on international law and negotiation.

We hope we can make a change – Yes, ICAN.

* Nicander van Duijn is a Pre-Master student Conflict Resolution at University of Amsterdam & Radboud University Honours Program and one of the Nuclear Diplomacy Crash Course students of this year.