Ban urged on nuclear weapons as conference on humanitarian impact closes in Mexico

by Keiichiro Yamamoto, Staff Writer

Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico – The second conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, held in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, closed on February 14 after the chair presented his factual summary. The summary states that outlawing nuclear weapons through legally binding international rules is the path to a world without nuclear arms. Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The conference urged the nations of the world to take action now and strive to conclude a nuclear weapons convention.

The summary points out that the use or accidental explosion of nuclear weapons can inflict serious harm on human health and economic activity over a prolonged period of time. It also warns that the risk of nuclear weapons being used is growing globally because of the proliferation of nuclear materials, cyber attacks, and human errors. In particular, it expresses the strong concern that terrorists could obtain nuclear arms.

The summary also states that, historically, weapons have been abolished after they were made illegal. It stresses that outlawing nuclear weapons through international law does not contradict the obligations imposed by existing international rules.

Akira Kawasaki, an executive committee member of Peace Boat, a Tokyo-based NGO, gave high marks to the chair’s summary. He said that the content of the summary is nearly comparable to early deliberations on the enactment of a nuclear weapons convention. He feels hope for the next conference.

Representatives from 146 nations, which is three-quarters of the members of the United Nations, attended this conference, up from 127 nations at the previous conference. The five countries permitted to maintain nuclear weapons by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including the United States and Russia, did not attend either gathering.

During the conference, a total of five first- and third-generation A-bomb survivors conveyed accounts of their experiences. One of them was Setsuko Thurlow, 82, who experienced the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and now lives in Canada. Chiho Kozakura, 16, observed the proceedings. The first-year student at Hiroshima University Senior High School was sent to the conference as a “High School Peace Ambassador” by a Nagasaki citizens’ group. The next conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons will be held in Vienna, Austria later this year.

(Originally published on February 16, 2014)