ICV is pleased to partner with nuclear, medical and public health experts and Nobel
Peace Prize Laureates on “Back from the Brink: The Call to Prevent Nuclear War” a national initiative seeking to fundamentally change U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

The campaign seeks to help Americans understand (1) the enormity of the destruction that nuclear war will cause; (2) the great and increasing danger that nuclear weapons will be used; and (3) the reality that nuclear weapons are the greatest threat to our health, safety, and security.

Supported by the Preventing Nuclear War Fund the Back from the Brink campaign will call on the United States to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war by:

  • Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first
  • Ending the sole, unchecked authority of any President to launch a nuclear attack
  • Taking US nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert
  • Cancelling the plan to replace its entire arsenal with enhanced weapons
  • Actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals

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Back from the Brink: a $20 Million investment toward a fundamental change in U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy

The Problem

For decades, U.S. nuclear policy has been based on the theory of deterrence—the belief that as long as the U.S. has enough nuclear weapons to destroy its enemies, no country would dare to attack us, and the weapons would never be used.

Numerous health, science, and environmental organizations have opposed this policy, arguing that nuclear weapons are so destructive, human beings are so fallible, and the technical systems we build so unreliable, that the continued existence of huge nuclear arsenals poses an unacceptable risk to humanity.

In the last few years, that risk has escalated dramatically as relations between the US and Russia, the US and China, India and Pakistan and North Korea and the rest of the world have deteriorated to the point where leading experts like William Perry argue that the risk of nuclear war is greater now than during the Cold War. In addition, security experts now warn that a cyber attack leading to the use of nuclear weapons is a real and growing danger. Finally the progressive effects of climate change are making many parts of the world less able to support their current population dramatically increasing the danger of conflict and forced migration on a scale unprecedented in human history.

A large scale nuclear war would kill hundreds of millions of people directly and cause unimaginable environmental damage. It would also cause catastrophic climate disruption dropping temperatures across the planet to levels not seen since the last ice age. Under these conditions the vast majority of the human race would starve and it is possible we would become extinct as a species.

In the words of Robert McNamara, one of the most influential defense secretaries of the 20th century, “nuclear weapons serve no military purposes whatsoever.” “They are totally useless — except only to deter one’s opponent from using them. The devastation would be complete and victory a meaningless term,” he said.

The Opportunity

Today we are closer to the brink of nuclear war than we have been in decades, but this great threat also presents a once in a generation opportunity. The anxiety generated by rising global tensions and the U.S. abandonment of critical arms-control agreements can be leveraged to generate wholesale change to a system that must be transformed so that the threat of nuclear war is no longer an option.

Through a smart, creative and nimble campaign, this moment can be used to educate the public, energize activists, move key policymakers and bring about fundamental change in U.S. nuclear policy that will make us all safer. To this end, Back from the Brink is successfully engaging scientists, health professionals, the faith community, environmentalists, veterans, students, academics, local and state policy makers, and peace and social justice advocates across the country.

“The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded.”

 – Ban Ki-moon

A key strategy is to secure national and local organizational endorsements of Back from the Brink’s five point policy platform. With those endorsements in hand, advocates are going to city councils and state legislatures and getting resolutions supporting Back from the Brink’s policy solutions introduced and adopted. Through this process, we’re able to provide much-needed education to the public and elected officials about the danger posed by nuclear weapons and engage them in advocacy for effective policy solutions.

In addition, this strategy allows us to powerfully demonstrate to Congress members and Presidential candidates that we need fundamental changes in US nuclear policy. Members of Congress are much more likely to take action (and sometimes only do) when they realize that an issue is important to a large number of their constituents. All of the resolutions are sent to congressional delegations by the municipalities that adopt them. Community advocates are also able to use local endorsements and resolutions to demonstrate to their representatives in Congress that organizations, towns and cities in their district want to see action on our five-point policy platform. A Back from the Brink resolution, H Res 302, has been introduced in the Congress.

Campaign Progress and Needs

To date, 300 health, science, faith, policy, academic, peace and justice organizations have endorsed Back from the Brink, including prominent organizations such as Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Federation of American Scientists, the Sierra Club, Indivisible, Veterans for Peace, Hip Hop Caucus, Soka Gakkai International USA, the United Church of Christ and national organizations representing a wide range of faiths.

Municipal resolutions supporting Back from the Brink have been adopted by 36 municipalities across the country, including Baltimore, MD, Los Angeles, CA, Salt Lake City, UT, Washington DC, Philadelphia and Tucson, AZ. Six legislative state bodies have also adopted Back from the Brink resolutions in California, Oregon, Maine, and New Jersey.

To reach a wider audience and realize our goals, Back from the Brink will need a strong management, a strategic hub, deep partnerships, experienced consultants and light infrastructure. Back from the Brink’s Facilitating Group is creating and facilitating a leadership council on the model of the successful International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Physicians for Social Responsibility, Union of Concerned Scientists, Soka Gakkai International-USA and other groups with longstanding experience on this issue and on developing innovative campaigns will be important partners in this executive role.

The estimated budget is $4.75 million a year for a sustained four-year, $20 million total campaign. Two-thirds of this budget will be spent on staff and consultants for the groups that have committed to drive the campaign, with the remaining third directed to research, paid media, video production and other creative tactics. The $4.75 million a year budget will provide:

  • Three campaign staff at a central clearing house ($500K)
  • Two full time people at up to ten partner organizations ($2M)
  • Consultant coordination, communications and administrative support ($250K)
  • Paid and digital media, research, video and online content creation ($2M)


Management Team

Challenges that threaten humanity require innovative responses and insights. The power of collaboration can ensure a prosperous future. Our experienced team has the character, courage and commitment to solving the nature of the challenges we face today, and how to respond to and contain these threats.
Ira Helfand, MD is Co-President of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize, and he is co-founder and past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, IPPNW’s US affiliate. He has published studies on the medical consequences of nuclear war in the New England Journal of Medicine, and the British Medical Journal, and has lectured widely in the United States, and in India, China, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Israel, Pakistan, Mexico, Brazil, and throughout Europe on the health effects of nuclear weapons. He represented PSR and IPPNW at the Nobel ceremonies in Oslo in December 2009, honoring President Obama, and presented their new report, Nuclear Famine: One Billion People at Risk, at the Nobel Peace Laureates Summit in Chicago in April of 2012. A second edition was released in December of 2013. Dr. Helfand was educated at Harvard College and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He is a former chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine and president of the Medical Staff at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, and currently practices as an internist and urgent care physician at Family Care Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Robert Dodge, MD is President of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA) and a board member of the national Physicians for Social Responsibility. Dr. Dodge is a family practice physician in Ventura, California. He became active in the peace movement as a college student at the University of Colorado, Boulder in the 1970′s where he majored in molecular, cellular and developmental biology. He went on to receive his M.D. at the University of California at Irvine and completed his residency in Family Medicine at Ventura County Medical Center. Dr. Dodge has worked for nuclear disarmament since the 1980’s when he was involved with Beyond War’s Ventura group and served as president of Ventura County Physicians for Social Responsibility. He authors’s the annual “Nuclear Weapons Community Costs Project” and frequently speaks and writes on issues related to nuclear security, global sustainability and the connection to climate change. He is also on the Board of National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. He is a firm believer that each individual has a role to play in bringing forth a just, sustainable and peaceful world.
Denise Duffield is Associate Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA) and directs its nuclear threats program, which advocates for health protective policies related to nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, and radiation regulations. Denise developed PSR-LA’s Peace and Security Ambassador program and coordinates public awareness events, physician and health professional training, legislative advocacy, and media placement related to nuclear issues. She leads PSR-LA’s participation in the campaign, “Back from the Brink: The Call to Prevent Nuclear War,” working with national and local public health, peace, environmental, faith and justice organizations. Denise also leads PSR-LA’s efforts to ensure a proper cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a former nuclear and rocket testing facility that is highly polluted with radiological and chemical contamination. She was recently selected to serve on the board of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), a national network of organizations working to address issues of nuclear weapons production and waste cleanup. Denise received the ANA’s 2019 Bill Mitchell Grassroots Activist Award for her “outstanding leadership in pursuit of environmental justice in Southern California, comprehensive cleanup of Santa Susana nuclear site, and nuclear disarmament throughout the world.”

Resource Library


Philanthropy: Love of Humankind

At the end of the day, at the end of our lives, we will ask ourselves whether we could have done more for the health and well-being of the planet, of humanity and all living things. Leverage your charitable giving to create systemic change with ICV’s Catalytic Philanthropy.

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“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?”

 – President Ronald Reagan