Nobel prize money will no longer be 'invested' in nuclear weapons

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.PHOTO: AFP

OSLO (AFP) - The Nobel Foundation said on Friday (Oct 27) its prizes will no longer be funded with investments from nuclear arms producers, just weeks after awarding the peace prize to a nuclear weapons disarmament campaign group.

The private institution, based in Stockholm, is responsible for managing the fund left by the prizes' founder, Alfred Nobel, a Swedish scientist who invented dynamite.

The cash award given to Nobel laureates comes from this fund, which according to Norwegian environmental organisation Framtiden i Vaare Hender (The Future in Our Hands) is financed with investments in funds from companies that manufacture nuclear weapons.

This means that part of the cash award - which this year was SEK nine million (S$1.4 million) per category - came from companies such as "Airbus, Boeing, Safran and Northrop Grumman Corp," so it is "very likely that the Nobel Foundation is invested in companies involved in (the) production of nuclear weapons," Framtiden said.

The discovery was made all the more embarrassing because the Nobel peace prize on Oct 6 was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

"The timing is unfortunate," Nobel Foundation director Lars Heikensten said.

He added, however, that after a hardening of the its ethical rules, the foundation had stopped investing, even indirectly, in producers of nuclear weapons, and that it had given itself 12 months to adjust or opt out of funds that invest in companies that manufacture these bombs.

"One can discuss that we should have done that earlier, but we sharpened our standards in March and we are now following through with it," Heikensten said.

"At the latest, by March next year we will have no investment in anything that is connected with any kind of production which is classified as connected with nuclear weapons".

Confronted with the revelations on Thursday, the head of the Nobel Institute Olav Njolstad admitted on Norwegian radio that it "doesn't look good".

ICAN is a global civil society movement pushing for a global treaty to ban nuclear arms, one that was signed by 122 countries - although none with such weapons - in July.

The campaign said Thursday it had invited a survivor of the World World II atomic bombing of Hiroshima to receive the Nobel alongside ICAN executive director Beatrice Fihn.

Setsuko Thurlow was 13 years old when, on Aug 6 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the southern Japanese city, killing 140,000 people, according to estimates.