Editorial: Mayors for Peace

Ways to steer international politics must be sought

How can a coalition of leaders inspire the international community to action? This should be the major theme of the Mayors for Peace general conference, which has opened in Hiroshima.

There are only seven years left until 2020, the group’s target for the abolition of nuclear weapons. At the opening ceremony, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said, “I would like to take full advantage of this network of cities to galvanize international public opinion in favor of nuclear abolition.”

That is the goal. But it’s clear that little actual international momentum toward achieving abolition has been generated.

We’ll be interested to see what the “Hiroshima Appeal” which will be hammered out tomorrow, and the four-year action plan have to say about how to achieve a breakthrough on this.

Mayors for Peace is a huge non-governmental organization, which now has about 5,700 member cities representing a total population of about 1 billion.

The group was launched in 1982, when it seemed likely that nuclear weapons might be used as a result of the Cold War. Membership continued to grow even after the end of the Cold War and has expanded particularly rapidly since the group issued its “2020 Vision” 10 years ago.

This growth may be the result of the spread of the belief of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that nuclear disarmament negotiations between nations, which involve various interests and ulterior motives, won’t get anywhere and that progress must be made through the efforts of municipalities, whose top priority is protecting their citizens.

For this reason it is important to shift from “quantity to quality.” Rather than boasting about the size of its membership, Mayors for Peace needs to consider how to propose a concrete path toward nuclear abolition.

What about the agenda items for this conference? First of all, a big issue will be enhancing the organization’s operating structure. That is to say, the organization’s strength must be boosted.

Because Mayors for Peace has not charged any membership fees, many municipalities joined without taking it too seriously, and there is quite a difference in the level of enthusiasm of the member cities. At this conference a proposal will be made to collect an annual fee of 2,000 yen from each member to be used to cover the organization’s operational expenses. It may seem like a small amount, but the aim seems to be to raise the awareness of all of those concerned.

Another point is designating a “leader city” for each region, such as Europe and the U.S., and promoting activities by them as “branch offices.” This sort of reform reflects the wishes of Mayor Matsui, who assumed the post of president two years ago. If these initiatives can be carried out the organization will be revitalized to a certain extent.

Meanwhile, we would like to see Mayors for Peace carry out more in-depth discussions on how it will rework its action plan, including its handling of the review conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is just two years away.

The Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol put forth by Mayors for Peace spells out a specific process for nuclear abolition, including how to promptly embark on negotiations for a treaty that would ban nuclear weapons. At its previous general conference in Nagasaki four years ago, the organization made adoption of the protocol at the NPT review conference to be held the following year its top priority. Momentum was growing in the wake of U.S. President Obama’s declaration of his desire to seek “a world without nuclear weapons.”

But not only was the protocol not adopted, it was not even proposed. In light of this, Mayors for Peace clearly needs to make a fresh start. How can a treaty banning nuclear weapons be promoted? How can the nuclear powers be made to recognize the inhumanity of nuclear weapons? These points should be the focus of a new action plan.

Of course, Japan’s stance will be called into question as well. The government continues to stick with the theory of nuclear deterrence. At an April meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the NPT review conference, Japan did not support a joint statement advocating the non-use of nuclear weapons. The leaders of Japanese member cities, who support abolition, should also speak out more.

It has been noted that some cities support the movement in name only, and we are particularly concerned about that. We would like to see this issue considered at the meeting of Japan’s member cities, which will be held as part of the general conference.

(Originally published on August 4, 2013)