Junior writers interview former junior writer, now participant at NPT PrepCom in New York

by Rie Nii, Staff Writer

Seven junior writers for the Chugoku Shimbun interviewed a former junior writer, Chisa Nishida, 19, on May 3. Ms. Nishida, now a sophomore at Nagasaki University, is attending the third Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference as a member of the Nagasaki Youth Delegation. The junior writers interviewed Ms. Nishida, who is attending the PrepCom at United Nations Headquarters in New York, via an online video chat.

Questions from the junior writers included: “When you listened to the discussion, did it seem to you that the nuclear weapon states are serious about reducing nuclear weapons?” and “Are the participants knowledgeable about the damage caused in Hiroshima as a result of the atomic bomb?” Responding to these questions, Ms. Nishida said, “All countries recognize the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. But when they think about their own nations, they don’t express their honest feelings, and for political reasons they say that nuclear weapons have value as a deterrent.” She went on, “Very few of the participants have visited Hiroshima or Nagasaki, and they don’t really have a clear picture of the actual damage. So they tend to use the word ‘inhumanity’ in an abstract sense. I found that it’s rather easy for them to put more importance on possessing nuclear weapons and defending their own nations.”

When asked if she believes NGOs can sway nations, Ms. Nishida answered, “When NGOs were expressing their views at a plenary session, a representative from Ireland voiced support for NGOs and gratitude for their speeches. I felt that NGOs are having an impact on the countries of the world.”

Ms. Nishida also described giving a speech at a dinner sponsored by the Japanese government. She spoke about nuclear disarmament and A-bomb survivors before 150 disarmament officials from national governments. “They listened to me very attentively. After my speech, a government official encouraged me to continue conveying my message, because nations can’t ignore the strong opinions of NGOs. I really felt I was able to get my message across.”

She added, “Individual NGOs don’t have much power, so it’s important to speak with one voice. Hiroshima and Nagasaki share similar experiences, so we must work closely together. I hope to become a bridge between the two cities.”

One junior writer, Miku Yamashita, 15, a first-year high school student, said, “Chisa is great, working on the world stage. The Japanese government should give its firm support, not lukewarm support, for the abolition of nuclear weapons. I want people from around the world to know more about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

The Nagasaki Youth Delegation was launched last year by the PCU Nagasaki Council for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, which is composed of Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki City, and Nagasaki University. This year eight students were selected as delegates and sent to the PrepCom. They will stay in New York until May 7.

Other questions and answers between junior writers and Ms. Nishida

Q (Junior writer): Please tell us about the meetings.
A (Chisa Nishida): There were sessions called ‘global debate’ on April 28 and on the morning of April 29, where the participants had the opportunity to voice their views, if they chose to. The Marshall Islands is where the United States carried out many nuclear tests, so it has a lot of radiation sufferers. The Marshall Islands has filed lawsuits against nine nuclear powers at the International Court of Justice. It contends that these countries are not making efforts to reduce their nuclear arsenals. When it called for greater efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, the audience erupted in applause. It was impressive.

Q: What do the people of NGOs think about nuclear weapons?
A: They agree on the inhumanity of nuclear weapons. Their discussion involves how to use the power of NGOs to change the conditions in countries and overcome their reservations. I don’t see any gaps in the attitudes of NGOs from different nations.

Q: Have your university studies helped you during your time in New York?
A: I major in international health care at Nagasaki University’s school of medicine and I’ve been to Fukushima and Kazakhstan. As most of the people have never had an opportunity to visit Hiroshima or Nagasaki, they have only abstract notions. I can provide concrete information about radiation data.

Q: Have you been disappointed by anything?
A: During the plenary session on the afternoon of April 29, NGOs made presentations and the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and A-bomb survivors made statements. Some nations, such as Ireland, have taken concrete actions, but more than a few countries missed the session and some representatives weren’t really listening.

Q: How was the exchange with the college students from Germany?
A: They really wanted to know more about the accident at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima. I felt I should be able to promptly answer their questions like “How did you feel and what did you do?” and discuss this in some depth. The people of Germany began moving more toward shutting down their nuclear power plants after the accident in eastern Japan, caused by the earthquake and the tsunami. They say the reason is that Japan has such advanced technology, and yet we couldn’t control the power plant. I heard they decided to move away from using nuclear energy because nuclear plants can become the targets of terrorists and spent fuel can be used to make nuclear weapons. I became more convinced that this is true.

Q: Have you had opportunities to make good use of your experience as a junior writer?
A: When I was a junior writer, before an interview I would research the person I was interviewing and consider my questions. And during the interview, I would ask a lot of questions, even if I had just met the person for the first time. Now I’m able to make arrangements and get appointments with people I’ve never met. I think it’s thanks to my experience as a junior writer that I don’t feel shy and I can ask questions. But here, it wasn’t very easy to make appointments with as many people as I had hoped to meet. When I was a junior writer, thanks to the name “Chugoku Shimbun,” I was able to meet people I could never have met otherwise. I hope you take advantage of this and actively send out your message from Hiroshima.

Remarks from the other junior writers

Shiho Fujii, first-year junior high school student
I’m impressed to see a former junior writer playing a role on the world stage. She thinks seriously about peace and is able to really act. She’s so cool. I felt fresh energy to keep writing as a junior writer and continue my peace activities in my own way. I’ll also study English hard.

Hiromi Ueoka, second-year junior high school student
It’s amazing that she can understand the contents of the discussion in English. She told us that she’s taking advantage of her experience as a junior writer during her time in New York. I hope I’ll be able to make good use of my experience, just like Chisa.

Aoi Nakagawa, second-year junior high school student
I was really surprised that Chisa, a former junior writer, is working actively as a member of the Nagasaki Youth Delegation. I hope I’ll also be able to use the valuable experience of being a junior writer in various ways in the future.

Marika Tsuboi, third-year junior high school student
It’s amazing that Chisa can express herself in English on all the things she talked about with us. I want to be able to use English as well as she can.

Shiori Niitani, first-year high school student
Chisa was friendly and cute. But when she expressed her strong desire to keep nuclear weapons from proliferating, she was so cool. I admire her. Also, I now see that junior writers are really privileged to do this work. I’m grateful for this environment and I’ll stay active as a junior writer.

Daichi Ishii, third-year high school student
I hadn’t talked to Chisa in a long time, and she looked so grown-up. She has gained a variety of experiences, and she’s very active. I intend to work hard, day in and day out, so that someday I’ll be interviewed by junior writers, too.

(Originally published on May 5, 2014)