People's Pressure Vital For A Nuclear-Weapons Free World

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Dr. Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of the City of Hiroshima

Nuclear Abolition News | IDN

By Taro Ichikawa
IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

TOKYO (IDN) – ‘Cities and citizens of the world, unite! Unite for a world without nuclear weapons!’ This is the clarion call Dr. Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of the City of Hiroshima, would like to hear resonate in the remotest corners of the globe. JAPANESE

Because Dr. Akiba is convinced that "when cities become friends they become sister cities; when states become friends, they become military allies". Research and education should therefore pay more attention to cities' capabilities to promote peace and cooperation, he told a symposium titled ' Towards a World without Nuclear Weapons', organised by Ozaki Yukio Memorial Foundation. 

Dr. Akiba is member of the Foundation's board and president of ‘Mayors for Peace’. This non-governmental organization (NGO) is composed of cities around the world that strive to raise international public awareness of the need to abolish nuclear weapons and contribute to the realization of genuine and lasting world peace by working to eliminate starvation and poverty, assist refugees fleeing local conflict, support human rights, protect the environment, and solve the other problems that threaten peaceful coexistence within the human family.

As of February 1, 2010, Mayors for Peace had 3,562 cities in 134 countries and regions as members. In March 1990, the Mayors' Conference was officially registered as a UN NGO related to the Department of Public Information.

In the run-up to the 65th anniversary of the dropping of atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the Mayor of Hiroshima is discussing the possibility of hosting summer Olympic Games in 2020 in the city, the year by which the Mayors for Peace want to see all nuclear weapons abolished. The ‘2020 Vision’ also envisages the ratification of the Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) by 2015.

The Mayors for Peace is as well working on a proposal so that the will of citizens may effectively be conveyed through the democratization of the United Nations by way of establishing an upper and a lower house in the UN system. The upper house would be made up of nation-states while the lower house would consist of of 200 cities -- 100 of these with large populations and the other 100 with memories of war/conflicts.

The rationale of the proposal is that throughout history, cities have suffered human and environmental devastation that wars inevitably cause. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Guernica and Auschwitz are only some of the examples.

“There is a city in Belgium,” said Dr. Akiba, where poison gas was first used during World War I in 1915. People in that city have been offering memorial services every day for the last 90 years.

And there is a temple in Hiroshima which rings bells at 8:15 every morning -- to remember the dropping of the atom bomb in 1945 -- and pray for peace. “We have entered an era where citizens of cities can take initiative instead of states in changing the world.”

CITIZENS' POWER

Without the commitment and power of citizens, the Mine Ban Treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and the Grameen Bank would not have materialised, Dr. Akiba pointed out.

He was supported by Kuniko Inoguchi, former Ambassador and head of the Japanese delegation to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva from 2002 to 2004. Inoguchi recalled that during her tenure as chair of the Conference "victims of small arms and light weapons, mines and cluster bombs were about half a million but delegates initially did not show much interest in dealing with this issue".

But when they testified at the UN, they turned the tide. "Those victims could come to the UN to testify only because they could get support from NGOs. At that time I thought that with the support from NGOs, atom bomb survivors may be able to influence the course of discussion on nuclear disarmament at the UN."

Inoguchi considers it vital to raise people’s awareness of victims of all sorts of weapons -- "not just victims of nuclear weapons" -- and besides nurture bonds among victims of all sorts of weapons.

She welcomed President Barack Obama's decision to host a summit in April in Washington to discuss how to prevent nuclear proliferation, ahead of the landmark conference in May to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"Normally, this kind of conference would take place at ambassadorial level but making it a summit shows the priority being given to this issue worldwide now. The most effective way to impact the world is to have presidents and prime ministers to act jointly and this is exactly for what the stage is set now on nuclear weapons issue;" Inoguchi said.

A major objective, she pointed out, is the U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). "If the U.S. moves, it would give a great impetus towards putting into effect the CTBT. Another important target is to promote discussion on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) this year," the former Japanese ambassador explained.

'SECOND NUCLEAR AGE'

Viewing nuclear abolition from yet another perspective, Dr. John E. Endicott, President of Woosong University, South Korea, said it was important to realise that the world has entered the Second Nuclear Age as Paul Bracken stated in his recent book.

For 200 years, the world has been shaped by Western military dominance. Gunboats were replaced by battleships as agents of national power, which in turn were replaced by cruise missiles and stealth bombers. Until recently, these weapons belonged exclusively to Europeans or North Americans. "But this monopoly on advanced military technologies is now ending," Dr. Endicott stressed.

Ballistic missiles carrying conventional warheads or weapons of mass destruction (WMD), along with other cutting-edge technologies, are now within reach of as many as ten Asian nations from Israel to North Korea -- a major shift in the world's balance of power.

Dr. Endicott explained that the rise of Asian military power heralds the beginning of a Second Nuclear age as different from the first -- that of the Cold War following on the heels of World War II. The world that the West created is being challenged, not just in military ways but in cultural and philosophical terms as well.

"Just as Asia began asserting itself economically in the 1960s and 1970s, it now does so militarily, backed by arms that would make Western interference in Asia far more treacherous and costly -- even in peacetime -- than ever before," Dr. Endicott said.

Of course, the long-term objective must be a total elimination of Nuclear weapons but it is important to take every step possible towards the objective, however small those steps might appear to be -- for example, by way of creating regional bodies around Limited-Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zones (LNWFZ).

Those bodies should be enabled to take up coordinating tasks regarding local, economic, political and social development across the region. And a new international body in the era of Second Nuclear age must be absolutely inclusive.

All existing nuclear-weapons-free zones and LNWFZ should be allowed to deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Security Council. "That is to say that regional bodies for East Asia, South Asia and the Middle East should all be included in this picture," Dr. Endicott suggested.

He pointed out that a fundamental condition for any international security system to be successful lies in its ability to face hard reality and adjust to changing circumstances.

"In today's world it is a hard reality that more than five nations do have nuclear weapons. It is time for international organizations to face and accept this reality. NPT regime, though one of successful surviving initiatives from Cold War days, must adjust itself to the new reality of the world and redefine itself.

"Let us start working on this urgent issue. The world would be forced to pay a terrible price if it fails to adjust itself to new realities from the 20th century. Let us not overlook this exciting opportunity of realizing a world free from nuclear weapons which is now within our reach," Dr. Endicott exhorted.

GREAT OPPORTUNITY

"We now have a great opportunity to move towards a world without nuclear weapons," agreed Hiromichi Umebayashi who moderated the discussion. An authority on the subject in his own right, Umebayashi pointed out that though President Obama's famous Prague speech in April 2009 has come to be viewed as a trigger for discussions on nuclear abolition, its roots go back to a symposium held in 2006 at the Hoover Institution in the United States.

The symposium marked the 20th anniversary of the 1986 Reykjavík summit where the then U.S. President Ronald Reagan and President Mikhail Gorbachev of the then Soviet Union agreed that there would not be any winner in a nuclear war and that nuclear weapons should be abolished from the planet earth.

Abolishing nuclear weapons is a rather complicated issue, said Umebayashi, who is special adviser to Peace Depot, a non-profit, independent peace research, education and information institution which aims to build a security system that does not rely on military power.

"We should keep in mind that although the fact that a U.S. president (Obama) made this commitment (to usher in a nuclear-weapons free world) is significant by itself, the bottom line is that it is up to us, the people of the world, whether our world would really move towards freeing itself from all nuclear weapons."

For this, the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva is the only standing institution within the UN system, former Japanese Ambassador Inoguchi said. "It has been recognized that the next disarmament treaty would be the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty but the bottleneck is that all the 66 member countries will have to agree on 'programm of works' before discussion can be initiated for the treaty."

There has been an argument to change this unanimous rule but question has also been raised about the effectiveness of making such a treaty without consent of some nuclear powers. "When I was the chairperson of the conference in 2003, we did substantive work for the Cutoff treaty, by way of Japan tabling a working paper for the treaty which will be used as a basis of discussion once formal negotiations for the treaty will be initiated," Inoguchi said.

She recalled that during the Bush (junior) administration, it was very difficult to advance, not to mention the difficulties of convincing nuclear powers outside of the NPT regime.

However, President Obama has consistently made it public as part of his commitment ever since he became a presidential candidate that he would make efforts to realize early initiation of the Cutoff treaty and this commitment was confirmed in his famous speech in Prague in April 2009.

"So the tide has turned and it has been agreed that the discussion for the treaty would be initiated. Although the Obama administration seems to be tied up (at home) with so many tough tasks such as health care reform, Japan’s role should be to keep reminding Obama of his commitment and closely work with the U.S. to push forward for the realization of the treaty," concluded Inoguchi

The fact that the symposium on such a critical issue as nuclear abolition took place at the Foundation named after Ozaki Yukio gave it an added weight. Yukio's life coincided with a century of transformation in Japan's history of finding an identity as a nation state and of founding the basis of a democratic government. (IDN-InDepthNews/19.02.2010)

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