International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

Acceptance Speech

Acceptance by Yevgeny Chazov, USSR Cardiological Institute, co-founder of IPPNW on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 1985

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Colleagues,

I am convinced that today is a great and exciting day not only for the members of our international movement but also for all physicians on our planet, irrespective of their political and religious beliefs. For the first time in history, their selfless service for the cause of maintaining life on Earth is marked by the high Nobel Prize. True to the Hippocratic Oath, we cannot keep silent knowing what the final epidemic – nuclear war – can bring to humankind. The bell of Hiroshima rings in our hearts not as funeral knell but as an alarm bell calling out to actions to protect life on our planet.

We were among the first to demolish the nuclear illusions that existed and to unveil the true face of nuclear weapons – the weapons of genocide. We warned the peoples and governments that medicine would be helpless to offer even minimal relief to the hundreds of millions of victims in nuclear war.

However, our contacts with patients inspire our faith in the human reason. Peoples are heedful of the voice of physicians who warn them of the danger and recommend the means of prevention. From the first days of our movement we suggested our prescription for survival which envisaged a ban on tests of nuclear weapons, a freeze, reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, non-first-use of nuclear weapons, ending the arms race on Earth and preventing it from spreading to outer space, creation of the atmosphere of trust between peoples and countries, promotion of close international cooperation.

Let us recall the words of the remarkable French author A. de Saint-ExupĂ©ry who said: “Why should we hate each other? We are all in one, sharing the same planet, a crew of the same ship. It is good when dispute between different civilisations gives birth to something new and mature, but it is outrageous when they devour each other”.

Confrontation is the road to war, destruction and end of civilisation. Even today it deprives the world’s peoples of hundreds of millions of dollars which are so badly needed for solving social problems, combating hunger and diseases.

Cooperation is the road to increased well-being of peoples, and flourishing of life. Medicine knows many examples when joint efforts of nations and scientists contributed to successful combat against diseases such as, for instance, as smallpox.

The five years of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War were not all roses. We had to cope with mistrust, scepticism, indifference and sometimes animosity. Our aspirations are pure: from time immemorial the physician was and remains the one who dedicates his life to the happiness of fellow men. And we are happy that today broad public and, what is especially important for the cause of peace, the Nobel Committee show high appreciation of the noble and humane endeavours of each of the 145,000 physicians persistent in their work to prevent nuclear war. For this we are grateful to the Committee.

The award of the Nobel Prize to our movement invigorates all the forces calling for the eradication of nuclear weapons from Earth. We are thankful to numerous public, political, state and religious figures all over the world for their support of our movement and our ideas. It was physically impossible to reply in writing to everyone; therefore I use this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to all who sent their warm congratulations.

At this moment I recall the telegram I received at the time of our first congress from an ordinary woman in Brooklyn. It was short: “Thank you on behalf of children”.

As adults we are obliged to avert transformation of the Earth from a flourishing planet into a heap of smoking ruins. Our duty is to hand it over to our successors in a better state than it was inherited by us. Therefore, it is not for fame, but for the happiness and for the future of all mothers and children, that we – International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War – have worked, are working and will work.

* * *

Acceptance by Bernard Lown, Professor of Cardiology, co-president IPPNW, on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 1985

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, Mr. Chairman, Colleagues in the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Friends, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dr. Chazov and I are filled with deep emotions of gratitude, of humility, and of pride as we accept this most prestigious prize on behalf of our movement. We are both cardiologists and usually speak about the heart. If we are to succeed in our goal of ridding military arsenals of instruments of genocide, we need the extraordinary energising strength that comes when mind and heart are joined to serve humankind.

We physicians who shepherd human life from birth to death have a moral imperative to resist with all our being the drift toward the brink. The threatened inhabitants on this fragile planet must speak out for those yet unborn, for posterity has no lobby with politicians.

The official announcement of the Nobel Committee on October 11th commended IPPNW for performing “a considerable service to mankind by spreading authoritative information and by creating an awareness of the catastrophic consequences of atomic warfare”. The statement continued: “…this, in turn, contributes to an increase in the pressure of public opposition”. The distinguished award honours physicians of our movement, who are responsible for such noteworthy accomplishments. It empowers the 135,000 members worldwide with a new elan and determination to prevent what cannot be cured. This new-found inspiration is demonstrated by the presence here in Oslo of 300 members, many of whom have travelled from halfway around the world, from far away Australia, Latin America, Bangladesh, India, and Japan, representing 38 of our 41 national affiliates! The enormous prestige of the Nobel Prize provides a unique opportunity for further mobilising and educating a still larger public. Thus the reason for awarding the prize will be enhanced by receiving the prize.

The committee’s citation took note of the “awakening of public opinion”, and the thought was expressed that this new force can “give the present arms limitation negotiations new perspectives and new seriousness”. Much has transpired since to provide reason for guarded optimism. At the meeting in Geneva three weeks ago, the leaders of the two great powers affirmed their determination to prevent nuclear war. They have expanded Soviet-American exchanges to promote a wide-ranging dialogue essential to foster understanding and to build trust. Cooperation on any scale is far preferable to relentless confrontation.

Summits like those in Geneva promote hope. But hope without action is hopeless. Our enthusiasm for the positive spirit in these deliberations must not blind us to the absence of genuine progress toward disarmament. Twenty-four nuclear bombs are being added weekly to world arsenals.

We physicians protest the outrage of holding the entire world hostage. We protest the moral obscenity that each of us is being continuously targeted for extinction. We protest the ongoing increase in overkill. We protest the expansion of the arms race to space. We protest the diversion of scarce resources from aching human needs. Dialogue without deeds brings the calamity ever closer, as snail-paced diplomacy is outdistanced by missile-propelled technology. We physicians demand deeds to implement further deeds which will lead to the abolition of all nuclear weaponry.

We recognise that before abolition can become a reality, the nuclear arms race must be halted. At our Fourth Congress in Helsinki 18 months ago, I urged a policy of reciprocating initiatives, the process compelled by popular understanding and public pressure. As its first medical prescription IPPNW endorsed the cessation of all nuclear testing. Our analysis leads to the inescapable conclusion that nuclear testing has a central role in the development of new, more sophisticated and more destabilising weapons.

From this world podium we call upon the governments of the United States and the Soviet Union to agree to an immediate mutual moratorium on all nuclear explosions to remain in effect until a comprehensive test ban treaty is concluded. A moratorium is verifiable, free of risk to either party, simple in concept yet substantive, has wide public support, and is conducive to even more dramatic breakthroughs. On November 21st an overwhelming majority of members of the United Nations favored amending the Limited Test Ban Treaty to make it more comprehensive. If enacted, a moratorium will begin unwinding the potential doomsday process.

We physicians have focused on the nuclear threat as the singular issue of our era. We are not indifferent to other human rights and hard-won civil liberties. But first we must be able to bequeath to our children the most fundamental of all rights, which preconditions all others; the right to survival.

Alfred Nobel believed that the destructiveness of dynamite would put an end to war. He deeply believed that the tragic reality of mass carnage would achieve results which all the preaching of peace and goodwill had so far failed to achieve. His prophecy now must gain fulfillment. Recoiling from the abyss of nuclear extermination, the human family will finally abandon war. May we learn from barbaric and bloody deeds of the twentieth century and bestow the gift of peace to the next millennium. Perhaps in that way we shall redeem some measure of respect from generations yet to come. Having achieved peace, in the sonorous phrase of Martin Luther King spoken here twenty-one years ago, human beings will then “rise to the majestic heights of moral maturity”.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1981-1990, Editor-in-Charge Tore Frängsmyr, Editor Irwin Abrams, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1997

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1985

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