Nominees for the 2021 Arms Control Person(s) of the Year

Since 2007, the independent, nongovernmental Arms Control Association has nominated individuals and institutions that have, in the previous 12 months, advanced effective arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament solutions and raised awareness of the threats posed by mass casualty weapons. A full list of previous winners is available here.

The 2021 nominees were:

  • James Cleverly, minister for Middle East and North Africa at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, on behalf of the United Kingdom and the 163 associated countries, for introducing and winning approval in the UN First Committee for a resolution mandating the creation of a new working group focused on developing possible norms, rules, and principles (including legally-binding measures) of responsible military behaviors in space and aimed at preventing an arms race in outer space.
  • Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Oreg.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and John Garamendi (D-Calif.), who established the bicameral Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group in early 2021, for their energetic efforts to build support for action by the Biden administration to pursue New START follow-on arms control negotiations with Russia, to reduce the role and the number of nuclear weapons in U.S. nuclear policy, and to seek nuclear risk reduction talks with China.
  • Decker Eveleth from the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen from the Federation of American Scientists for utilizing open-source satellite imagery to reveal construction activity in central China for the possible deployment of at least 250 additional land-based, nuclear-armed, long-range ballistic missiles. Their work has prompted a public debate about how the United States and China can avoid an arms race driven by mutual concerns about vulnerability to nuclear attack.
  • Avinashpall Singh and Rooj Ali, two high school students from Winnipeg, Canada, for their successful effort to win the city council’s unanimous support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), one of the dozens of such initiatives around the globe to encourage city governments to call for their national governments to join the TPNW.
  • Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the Agency's team of inspectors, for their steadfast efforts to sustain effective, intrusive monitoring of Iran’s sensitive nuclear activities under the terms of its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the Agency, as the United States and Iran struggle to find a political formula that brings both countries back into compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
  • Sébastien Philippe, Associate Research Scholar of the Princeton Program on Science and Global Security, and French journalist Tomas Statius, for their groundbreaking investigation that challenges the French government’s official public story of the health consequences of French atmospheric nuclear tests in the South Pacific and has stirred international debate about how Paris should respond. Their new findings suggest more than 100,000 people in Polynesia may be eligible to claim compensation from France for harm caused by the tests, which is about 10 times more than estimated by the existing French government.
  • Steve Kostas, a senior lawyer with the Open Society Justice Initiative; Hadi al Khatib, founder of the Syrian Archive; and Mazen Darwish, founder of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, for filing legal complaints in France and Germany against Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad and other Syrian officials for their role in chemical weapons attacks against civilians in Douma, Ghouta, and Khan Shaykhun, Syria. The complaints request criminal investigations and prosecutions of Mr. al-Assad and a number of Syrian government officials and chains of command responsible for the attacks.
  • Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and the Government of Mexico for its lawsuit against U.S. gun manufacturers and distributors in a Massachusetts federal district court that takes a novel approach to combat illicit weapons trafficking. The lawsuit alleges that several major firearms manufacturers and wholesalers “design, market, distribute, and sell guns in ways they know routinely arm the drug cartels in Mexico,” and that contributes to a decline of life expectancy in Mexico. It said the named companies sell about 340,000 of an estimated half-million guns that illegally flow each year from “Massachusetts and other U.S. states to criminals south of the border.”

Previous winners of the "Arms Control Person of the Year" include: Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins and WCAPS
for catalyzing support in the national security and foreign-policy communities to increase diversity into their ranks (2020); Dr. Areg Danagoulian and colleagues at MIT who developed an innovative new nuclear disarmament verification process (2019); 4,000 Anonymous Google Employees whose open letter to company leadership led to Google ending its work on “Project Maven” with the Pentagon (2018); Diplomats from Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and South Africa, and Costa Rica who secured the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (2017); The government of Marshall Islands and its former Foreign Minister Tony de Brum (2016)Setsuko Thurlow and the Hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, (2015); Austria's Director for Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Ambassador Alexander Kmentt (2014), Executive-Secretary of the CTBTO Lassina Zerbo (2013)Gen. James Cartwright (2012); reporter and activist Kathi Lynn Austin (2011), Kazakhstan's Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Umarov and Thomas D'Agostino, U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator (2010)Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) (2009), Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and his ministry's Director-General for Security Policy and the High North Steffen Kongstad (2008), and U.S.Congressmen Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and David Hobson (R-Ohio) (2007).

If you support the Arms Control Association's promotion of these principled individuals and efforts, please make a contribution that allows us to support their work throughout the year. Such efforts depend on the support of individuals like you.