A brief history of IPPNW
Founded in 1980, IPPNW was an inspiration born of the Cold War. With the world divided into two militarized camps poised on the brink of nuclear war, a small group of Soviet and American doctors took a leap of faith. They reasoned that their common interest in survival was more powerful than the ideological divides between them. They believed that their obligation as physicians included a common commitment to the prevention of nuclear war.
Led by co-founders Drs. Bernard Lown of the US and Evgeni Chazov of the Soviet Union, they organized a team to conduct meticulous scientific research based on data collected by Japanese colleagues who had studied the effects of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
And they drew upon their knowledge of the medical effects of burn, blast, and radiation injuries. The doctors sounded a medical warning to humanity: that nuclear war would be the final epidemic; that there would be no cure and no meaningful medical response. Their message reached millions of people around the world. In the words of former New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange, "IPPNW made medical reality a part of political reality."
In its first five years, IPPNW, working closely with its US affiliate Physicians for Social Responsibility and IPPNW-Russia, educated health professionals, political leaders, and the public about the medical and environmental consequences of nuclear warfare. For this effort, which united physicians across the Cold War divide, IPPNW was awarded the UNESCO Peach Education Prize in 1984 and the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.
Throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, IPPNW comprehensively documented the health and environmental effects of the production, testing, and use of nuclear weapons. In a series of well-researched, authoritative books and numerous articles and op-ed pieces in medical journals and the popular press, IPPNW spelled out the tremendous price nuclear weapons states are paying in their pursuit of nuclear weaponry.
From uranium mining to nuclear testing and production, from Nevada to Moruroa and Hanford to Chelyabinsk, IPPNW and its affiliates collected and analyzed data that provides the public with a frightening assessment of the health and environmental costs of pursuing security through nuclear weapons.
IPPNW and its affiliates not only educated the public, they also organized citizens in the nuclear states to protest and change their governments' policies. IPPNW believes that the active involvement of millions of people is essential if we are to prevent war and abolish nuclear weapons.
Physician-activists were instrumental in the campaigns to ban atmospheric and underground nuclear test explosions and in helping to shut down nuclear weapons testing sites and production facilities.
As the Cold War came to an end, IPPNW had grown to comprise some 200,000 physicians, health care workers, and concerned citizens every region of the world.
When IPPNW mobilizes its vast network of medical organizations throughout the world in support of a campaign, a great deal gets accomplished. IPPNW physician-activists:
- Created an international medical movement to disseminate factual information about the consequences of nuclear warfare worldwide, receiving the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for this effort.
- Promoted Soviet-American dialogue at the height of the Cold War by organizing Soviet and American doctors to bring a non-partisan anti-nuclear message to the people of both countries, reaching millions.
- Helped stop underground nuclear testing by influencing the Soviet Union to initiate and extend a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing from 1985-1987.
- Organized the International Citizens Congress for a Nuclear Test Ban in Kazakhstan, a key event that led to the 1991 closing of the Soviet Union's principal test site at Semipalatinsk.
- Helped lead an international lobbying effort in support of a nuclear test ban.
- Created SatelLife, a health development project that provides state-of-the-art communications technology to exchange critically needed medical information between the North and the South.
- Established an International Commission to Investigate the Health and Environmental Effects of Nuclear Weapons Production and Testing and worked with the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research to document these effects.
- Worked with INFACT to organize medical professionals in the GE Boycott, which successfully moved the multinational corporation out of the nuclear weapons industry
- Helped document with the Harvard Study Team the health effects of the Gulf War.
- Co-founded the World Court Project with the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms and the International Peace Bureau that secured a landmark ruling from the International Court of Justice confirming the illegality of the threat and use of nuclear weapons.
- Helped spearhead the launch of Abolition 2000, a global campaign to build worldwide support for a signed agreement that sets a firm timetable for nuclear abolition.
- Participated in the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
- Organized with IPPNW-Russia and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines the first conference on landmines in Russia, a major manufacturer of landmines.
- Helped launch the Middle Powers Initiative to mobilize key non-nuclear weapons states to encourage the leaders of the nuclear weapons states to commit themselves to the elimination of nuclear weapons.
- Submitted a revised Model Nuclear Weapons Convention to the United Nations. The treaty was drafted by the Lawyers Committee for Nuclear Policy, the International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation, and IPPNW.
- As this list of accomplishments shows, IPPNW successfully partners with other leading professional and grassroots organizations to further our goals of nuclear abolition and prevention of war.
Milestones - IPPNW's First Two Decades
- Drs. Bernard Lown, James Muller, and Eric Chivian from the US meet in Geneva with Drs. Evgeni Chazov, Leonid Ilyin, and Mikhail Kuzin from the Soviet Union and agree to organize an international physicians movement to combat the nuclear threat.
- IPPNW's First World Congress is held in Airlie, Virginia, and is attended by 80 physicians from 12 countries. The Congress attracts press coverage, generates scientific research, and provides the foundation for building an international movement.
- The Second World Congress is held in Cambridge, UK, and is attended by 200 physicians from 31 countries.
- Soviet and U.S. physicians from IPPNW appear on Soviet television for an unprecedented live, unedited discussion on the consequences of nuclear war. Seen by 100 million Soviet viewers, the program is later broadcast in the US.
- IPPNW publishes Last Aid: the Medical Dimension of Nuclear War. The book is translated into several languages and is used at leading medical schools worldwide.
- The Third World Congress is held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and is attended by more than 300 physicians from 43 countries.
- The Fourth World Congress is held in Espoo, Finland, and is attended by 500 physicians from 53 countries. The Impact of Nuclear War on Children and Adolescents, an international research study co-sponsored by IPPNW, is presented.
- UNESCO honors IPPNW with its Peace Education Prize, citing "especially remarkable activity to inform public activity and mobilize the conscience of mankind for peace."
- During the first tour of IPPNW's new East-West Physicians Campaign, a team of Soviet and US physicians visits five US cities to educate the public about the medical consequences of nuclear war and to promote East-West relations.
- The Fifth World Congress of IPPNW is held in Budapest, Hungary, and is attended by 800 physicians from 60 countries. The federation now represents more than 135,000 physicians in 41 national affiliates. New emphasis is placed on the relationship between development and disarmament and the need for a nuclear test ban.
- IPPNW formulates a "Medical Prescription," calling for a moratorium on nuclear testing. Weeks later, the USSR announces that it will discontinue its testing program for the rest of the year. IPPNW launches an international campaign for a mutual moratorium.
- In December, IPPNW receives the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. The Nobel Committee commends IPPNW for "considerable service to mankind by spreading authoritative information and in creating an awareness of the catastrophic consequences of atomic warfare."
- IPPNW Co-Presidents Lown and Chazov meet with Mikhail Gorbachev and help persuade him to extend the Soviet Union's unilateral moratorium on nuclear weapons testing.
- Fifteen hundred physicians from 65 countries examine the moral and ethical aspects of nuclear weapons at IPPNW's Sixth World Congress in Cologne, Germany.
- IPPNW leaders travel through the USSR, China, and Japan on the first leg of IPPNW's Global Campaign. Subsequent legs take IPPNW leaders through five continents on their mission to educate physicians and build the movement.
- The Seventh World Congress is held in Moscow, USSR, and is attended by more than 2,000 physicians from 70 countries. Representing more than 175,000 physicians, IPPNW is now the fasting growing medical organization in the world.
- IPPNW co-sponsors the International Scientific Symposium on a Nuclear Test Ban in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Soviet Union conducts the first nuclear test of 1988, triggering protests from IPPNW affiliates as part of the new Cease-Fire campaign. Affiliates continue to protest every single nuclear test.
- The Eighth World Congress is held in Montreal, Canada, and is attended by 2,500
physicians from nearly 80 countries.
- Crosby, Stills and Nash and Bruce Cockburn, together with musicians from the USSR and Canada perform at IPPNW's Concert for Peace. IPPNW's Concert Tour for Peace begins in Berlin (West). Under the direction of the late Antal Dorati, an international orchestra and chorus perform Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis" in four cities in five days.
- In response to a growing crisis created by nuclear weapon manufacture, IPPNW creates the International Commission to Investigate the Health and Environmental Effects of Nuclear Weapons Production.
- In December, an earthquake devastates parts of Soviet Armenia. IPPNW secures millions of dollars worth of medical supplies and arranges for medical teams to enter the quake-stricken region.
- SatelLife is incorporated under the auspices of IPPNW to develop programs using space technology for medical purposes with an emphasis on the developing world.
- A new IPPNW publication, Medicine and Nuclear War: A Model Curriculum, helps medical school faculty include information on medicine and nuclear war in their programs.
- At IPPNW's Ninth World Congress in October, 3,000 physicians meet in the two cities victimized by the atomic bombs: Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- Together with the Soviet grass-roots movement "Nevada-Semipalatinsk-Moruroa," IPPNW convenes the International Citizens Congress for a Nuclear Test Ban in Alma-Ata and Semipalatinsk, USSR. The historic event revitalizes the Comprehensive Test Ban campaign.
- SatelLife plans next year's launch of a communications satellite that would provide vital information services to medical communities in the developing world.
- IPPNW releases Radioactive Heaven and Earth, the first formal report of IPPNW's International Commission to Investigate the Health and Environmental Consequences of Nuclear Weapons Testing and Production.
- SatelLife creates HealthNet, an inexpensive, reliable communication system providing physicians in both hemispheres a means of solving problems together.
- More than 1,300 IPPNW activists from 80 nations assemble in Stockholm, Sweden for IPPNW's Tenth Anniversary World Congress.
- During the Gulf War, IPPNW sends investigators, publicizes the health effects of the war, advocates for peace, and delivers tons of medical and nutritional supplies.
- The second volume of research by the International Commission, Plutonium: Deadly Gold of the Nuclear Age, is published.
- Medical supplies and equipment are delivered to the former Soviet Union in response to shortages following its breakup.
- To help persuade the new nuclear states Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine to give up the nuclear arsenals they inherited from the Soviet Union, IPPNW works with its Russian affiliate on a broad educational and media campaign.
- The World Court Project is launched in conjunction with the International Peace Bureau and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms. The goal of the project is to have the International Court of Justice issue an advisory opinion on the illegality of nuclear weapons.
- African affiliates aid refugees from the war in Somalia and help document the health effects of the war.
- The Eleventh World Congress takes place in Mexico City, the first in the developing world.
- At IPPNW's urging, the World Health Organization votes to petition the World Court for an advisory opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons use.
- Demonstrations and letter writing help lead to an extension of the nuclear testing moratorium.
- Russian and Japanese affiliates lead the federation's protest against Russian dumping of liquid radioactive waste in violation of a ten year moratorium. This was followed by a world ban on nuclear and industrial waste dumping at sea by the London Convention.
- IPPNW works with Medipaz, our Nicaraguan affiliate, to produce a study on The War in Nicaragua: The Effects of Low-Intensity Conflict on an Underdeveloped Country.
- The United Nations General Assembly requests an advisory opinion from the World Court on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons; 34 national governments submit legal arguments to the Court. IPPNW joins in presenting 110 million citizens' signatures to the Court in opposition to nuclear weapons.
- An unprecedented tour by Russian Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (RPPNW) to four principal nuclear weapons sites in the U.S. takes place as part of RPPNW's continuing public education campaign on the nuclear threat.
- The Abolition 2000 campaign is launched with the goal of building worldwide support for a signed global agreement by the year 2000 that sets a firm timetable for nuclear abolition.
- At a top-level NPT symposium, IPPNW's case for nuclear abolition is received enthusiastically by an audience that included diplomats, disarmament experts, and the public.
- A senior IPPNW delegation travels to Paris to meet in person with high-level French officials to protest planned nuclear tests in the South Pacific.
- The release of Nuclear Wastelands, the magnum opus of IPPNW's International Commission, is publicly lauded as the most comprehensive and authoritative reference on the devastating health and environmental effects of fifty years of nuclear weapons production.
- Chinese physicians join IPPNW, giving it an affiliate in every nuclear weapons state. Abolition 2000 -- Handbook for a World Without Nuclear Weapons is released to help physician-activists develop their dialogue and non-confrontational communication skills for use with governments and decision-makers.
- IPPNW releases the first report of a new information series: Global Health Watch. Crude Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and the Terrorist Threat evaluates the risks and potential consequences of nuclear terrorism in a world where fissile materials could fall into the hands of terrorists.
- The 12th World Congress is held at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts (USA). The theme of the Congress is Peace Through Health: Agenda for the New Millennium.
- Dr. R. S. McCoy, IPPNW Co-President, sits on the prestigious Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
- IPPNW helps push through a final agreement on the long-awaited Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
- IPPNW produces the comprehensive report Landmines: A Global Health Crisis, the second in the Global Health Watch series.
- IPPNW joins commission of Nobel Peace Laureates to promote an International Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers.
- As part of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, IPPNW celebrates the award of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize to Jody Williams and the ICBL.
- Medicine & Global Survival and Medicine, Conflict and Survival are designated IPPNW journals.
- Efforts to secure an international agreement on the elimination of nuclear weapons by the year 2000 were advanced in a Geneva meeting among NGOs, including IPPNW, and dozens of state representatives to the UN Conference on Disarmament.
- With IPPNW support, the Middle Powers Initiative is launched -- an effort by several NGOs to mobilize the influence of key non-nuclear states to press the nuclear powers on disarmament issues.
- IPPNW organizes its first ever North Asia regional meeting to address critical nuclear security issues among Japan, China, and the Koreas.
- IPPNW organizes a major conference on landmines in Moscow with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. This is the first such forum held in Russia, a major manufacturer of landmines.
Official Statement of the Nobel Committee Upon Awarding the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize to IPPNW:
- IPPNW works with IALANA, the International Peace Bureau, and other peace, disarmament, and human rights groups to help organize the Hague Appeal for Peace; IPPNW members conduct workshops and IPPNW medical students organize a 10-day training session on peace and disarmament issues.
- IPPNW publishes Is Everything Secure? Myths and Realities of Nuclear Disarmament.
- The Australian affiliate holds the 13th World Congress in Melbourne.
- Security and Survival: The Case for a Nuclear Weapons Convention is produced by IPPNW in cooperation with the Lawyers Committee for Nuclear Policy and the International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation. The book, released at the UN during the Non-Proliferation Treaty PrepCom, is a valuable organizing tool in the campaign for nuclear abolition.
- IPPNW leaders meet with India's Prime Minister to call for nuclear abolition. Bombing Bombay: The Effects of Nuclear Weapons and a Case Study of a Hypothetical Explosion is released in South Asia to help activists campaign for nuclear abolition.
"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 1985 to the organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
It is the committee's opinion that this organization has performed a considerable service to mankind by spreading authoritative information and by creating an awareness of the catastrophic consequences of atomic warfare. The committee believes that this in turn contributes to an increase in the pressure of public opposition to the proliferation of atomic weapons and to a redefining of priorities, with greater attention being paid to health and other humanitarian issues.
Such an awakening of public opinion as is now apparent both in the East and the West, in the North and in the South, can give the present arms limitation negotiations new perspectives and a new seriousness. In this connection, the committee attaches particular importance to the fact that the organization was formed as a result of a joint initiative by Soviet and American physicians and that it now draws support from the physicians in over 40 countries all over the world.
It is the committee's intention to invite the organization's two founders, who share the title of president -- Professor Bernard Lown from the USA and Professor Evgeni Chazov from the Soviet Union -- to receive the Peace Prize on behalf of their organization."