World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates sets challenge

The word “We” symbolizes the three days of discussion at the 2010 World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates and should be considered a call for the citizens of the world to spearhead the campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons.

The six-point proposal in “The Hiroshima Declaration on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons,” issued prior to the close of the summit, begins with “We”: “We call upon heads of government, parliament, mayors and citizens to join us in affirming that the use of nuclear weapons is immoral and illegal…We call on nations to start work on a universal treaty to abolish nuclear weapon, in partnership with civil society.”

The participants of the summit, Nobel Peace Prize laureates and representatives of Nobel Peace Prize-winning organizations, have contributed to peace in the world in a variety of areas including famine, poverty, human rights, and the resolution of regional conflict. They have made efforts through their actions, not merely their words, and they came to Hiroshima to vow action for the cause of nuclear abolition from this city. We should contemplate the significance of their gesture.

The challenge now lies in whether their commitment can be shared by citizens. Each one of us should act for the cause of abolition. Simply relying on governments to realize this aim will not reap success.

The inhumanity and illegality of nuclear weapons became key points of discussion at the summit. Currently, there is no international law that makes these weapons illegal.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has not gone into effect, and full-fledged negotiations for the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty have not yet begun. Reductions in nuclear weapons are left to negotiations among the nuclear weapon states themselves. Merely sitting on the sidelines and watching what transpires in international politics will not remove the obstacles blocking the way toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Jody Williams, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who contributed to the fulfillment of the Land Mine Ban Treaty, made a striking remark at the summit discussion. Ms. Williams suggested that there is something lacking in the citizens’ movement calling for nuclear abolition.

Some citizens’ groups call for the realization of a nuclear weapons convention, while others focus on the denuclearization of Northeast Asia and the Middle East. It is true that efforts from multiple sides are vital to achieve nuclear abolition. But it is also true that these multiple efforts reduce the overall strength of the citizens’ movement for the abolition cause.

Ms. Williams was able to win realization of the Land Mine Ban Treaty by rallying the voices of citizens and land mine victims from across the world. The current nuclear abolition movement engaged in by citizens’ groups has not been able to rally sufficient power for its cause because the focus is not unified. This is the difficulty that Ms. Williams was pointing to.

If a mediator exists that can unify the arguments of the world’s citizens, Hiroshima is the most suitable candidate.

Since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 65 years ago, the appeal of these cities for nuclear abolition is persuasive and holds great significance. Serving as a base for the worldwide networking of citizens, including Mayors for Peace, is a notable strength of the city of Hiroshima.

To impel international politics to realize the abolition of nuclear weapons, greater efforts must be made to expand understanding and sympathy among the citizens of the world, including those in the nuclear weapon states, for the spirit of Hiroshima. Establishing a “Hiroshima Day” for the world, as proposed by the 14th Dalai Lama, could be one of these efforts.

Transmitting the written A-bomb accounts of the survivors via the Internet, translated into many languages, is another idea, among many, for conveying to the world the horrific human tragedy that occurred under the mushroom cloud.

A-bomb survivors, citizens, and local governments are a unified “We” for nuclear abolition. Shouldn’t such unity serve as a basis for enlarging the circle of Hiroshima’s spirit in the world?

(Originally published on November 18, 2010)

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