Updated: Mar 3
As part of the 21st annual Warwick Economics Summit, Beatrice Fihn delivered a riveting keynote address to our virtual audience on 4th February, 2022.
Below, you will find our official Summit Press Release for the event, which summarises the speech's highlights, and is accompanied by a collection of the very best quotes from Beatrice Fihn at WES 2022.
Not only a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, but also Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN): Beatrice Fihn is an inspiring leader driving meaningful change through collective action. It was about her leadership, and the importance of this collective action, that Fihn spoke to the student-run Warwick Economics Summit on 4th February.
She began her address with a searing critique of popular culture: "our media and our culture of celebrity - even the way we write history sometimes - celebrates singular figures". This fascination with individualism, argued Fihn, prevents us from appreciating the collective nature of all major humanitarian and social progress. No less true in the drive to eliminate nuclear weapons, "one person cannot change the world, but a whole community can," came Fihn's motivating call to action. Through this earnest defence of communal activism, Fihn explained that ICAN's own coalition-based structure empowers over 600 partner organisations to translate and adapt ICAN's mission for their own unique audiences.
Engaging with Summit attendees in a lively Q&A, Fihn emphasised the need to protect the safety of activists in non-democratic states, as well as the time and place for civil disobedience in anti-war agendas. Further topics ranged from racism in international non-proliferation norms, to Fihn's personal journey into the movement. Throughout, the mission of ICAN rang clear: "there are no right hands for the wrong weapons," and Beatrice Fihn won't stop until these weapons of mass destruction are truly "a cold war relic".
"Our world celebrates and relishes youth in many ways, but not when it comes to power and change. In this moment, when the world can feel extremely scary and intimidating, young people are saying we can't let other people decide what the future will look like, or if there will be a future at all."
"One person cannot change the world. I think it's really important for us to recognise that. No one person can change the world, whether it's a regular person or the President. But we can inspire others to act."
"Our work in democratic countries is much more visible because we can be public about it, and we can put faces on it, and people can speak out, (...) while in some other countries, it is much more a personal risk, which means that they have to be a little quieter and little bit more subtle. But I want to highlight very much that international law and norms, it impacts non-democratic countries as well, and they also join treaties."
"The enormous hypocrisy around this issue, that we are saying that certain countries are much more dangerous with nuclear weapons than the western countries (...) there is a certain level of racism there. (...) Even though the only country that has ever detonated a nuclear bomb on a civilian population is the United States; no other country has done that. Yet we kind of see them as the responsible nuclear actors."
"ICAN has said that there are no right hands for the wrong weapons. The danger isn't a certain country with nuclear weapons; the danger is the weapon. No country has the right to be able to end life on earth as we know it. No individual."
"The ability to mass murder a maximum amount of civilians, (...) it's one type of power - a very limited power - but there are other ways of (...) shaping the world. And I really do believe that, for example, multilateralism and shared economics, culture are also ways of shaping the world. And I think we can see that this soft power is just as influential, and is just as much able to shape the world."
"Oppose not just the nuclear arms state. It's very easy in the nuclear weapons field to think about the nine leaders of the nuclear arms states as the only people who can change this - forgetting things like the weapons companies, for example, or the banks that lend money."
“I think the sort of anti-war movement has really been too quiet. And I think there's been a reluctance to question the military - not just in non-democratic countries, but also in may democratic countries. And you're seen as naïve, or disloyal, or weak if you are questioning the military."
Press release written by Ingrid Bahnemann
A NOTE ON PRESS RELEASE REDISTRIBUTION:
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