Reporter’s View: Another speech presented at the award ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize

by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer, Hiroshima Peace Media Center

It is widely known that Setsuko Thurlow, 86, an A-bomb survivor from Hiroshima who now lives in Canada, delivered an address at last December’s award ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a non-governmental organization (NGO). When I spoke to Ms. Thurlow, she told me that another address, the speech given at the banquet by Henrik Syse, the vice chair of the Nobel Committee, was one of the most impressive speeches she heard during her time in Norway.

Ms. Thurlow called me to say that she had received a copy of this speech from Mr. Syse himself and that she wanted me to read it. A bit surprised, I looked at the speech and found that at the beginning he went beyond diplomatic language to emphasize words that conveyed his true feelings about ICAN’s win of the Nobel Peace Prize. Containing a wide range of references, from a joke about a couple who have not spoken to each other in a long time to the philosophical ideas of Immanuel Kant, Mr. Syse stressed the necessity of spreading the goal of abolishing the most destructive weapons that humankind has ever devised.

As Norway is an ally of the United States and is protected under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, the current Norwegian government opposes the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Mr. Syse, an expert on the ethics of war, is a member of the ruling Conservative Party and is a former military officer. Although his views are different from many of ICAN’s principles and ideas, he does at least candidly acknowledge the importance of making efforts to engage in dialogue where both sides have the chance to speak and listen. It is therefore understandable that Ms. Thurlow was deeply impressed with his speech.

No matter how much the Japanese government is urged by the A-bomb survivors to sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty and take part in its fulfillment, government officials and policymakers continue to repeat the same rhetoric that U.S. nuclear deterrence is necessary for Japan’s security. Does the Japanese government truly have the desire to speak seriously with the A-bomb survivors? Is the government’s assertion that it seeks the total elimination of nuclear weapons its real intention? I feel that Ms. Thurlow has charged me with the task of encouraging the people of the A-bombed city of Hiroshima to continue pressing the government for its true intentions with regard to the issue of nuclear abolition.

(Originally published on February 2, 2018)