For Immediate Release: January 9, 2017
Media Contact: Tony Fleming, communications director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 110
(Washington, D.C.)—The Republic of the Marshall Islands and its former Foreign Minister Tony de Brum, garnered the highest number of votes in an online poll to determine the "2016 Arms Control Person of the Year." Over 1,850 individuals from 63 countries participated in the selection.
Ten individuals and groups were nominated by the staff of the Arms Control Association for their leadership in advancing effective arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament solutions or for raising awareness of the threats posed by mass casualty weapons during the past year.
The government of the Marshall Islands and Ambassador de Brum were nominated for pursuing a formal legal case in the International Court of Justice in The Hague against the world's nuclear-armed states for their failure to initiate nuclear disarmament negotiations in violation of Article VI of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and customary international law.
"The nomination of the Marshall Islands and Ambassador de Brum and the many votes they received reflects the concern and frustration expressed by many non-nuclear weapon states about the unacceptable consequences of nuclear weapons use, the slow pace of nuclear disarmament, and the growing risks of renewed global nuclear competition" noted Kingston Reif, director of disarmament and threat reduction at the Arms Control Association.
In October, the 16-member court issued their rulings which upheld the arguments of the nuclear states that the Court lacked jurisdiction in two 9-7 votes in the cases of India and Pakistan and in an 8-8 vote in the case of the UK.
The people of the Marshall Islands were subjected to 67 U.S. atmospheric nuclear tests explosions from 1946 to 1958. India, Pakistan, and the UK were the only states to participate in the lawsuits because the others do not recognize the court’s compulsory jurisdiction to mediate disputes between states.
Despite the court decisions, representatives of the Marshall Islands said the cases brought the frustratingly slow pace of disarmament negotiations to the world’s attention.
“The Marshall Islands’ bringing of these cases in and of itself is significant because it squarely challenged the nine nuclear states to comply with the legal obligation to pursue and conclude negotiations on nuclear disarmament,” John Burroughs, a member of the Marshall Islands’ legal team and the executive director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, told Arms Control Today in a phone interview Oct. 12.
The runner-up in the vote for the 2016 Arms Control Persons of the Year were the foreign ministers of Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria, and South Africa. They had jointly secured adoption of UN Security Council resolution L.41 “to convene in 2017 a United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.”
The second runner up was former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry for his continuing efforts to raise attention to the risk of renewed nuclear weapons competition and calling for restraint. Secretary Perry had launched in 2016 a new online course on nuclear weapons and authored a new book, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink.
Online voting was open from December 8, 2016 until January 5, 2017. A list of all 2016 nominees is available online.
Previous winners of the "Arms Control Person of the Year" include: 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).
The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.