Mayors for Peace closes with adoption of appeal, urging policymakers to change nuclear policies

by Kana Kobayashi, Staff Writer

The general conference of Mayors for Peace, which was held at the International Conference Center Hiroshima in the city’s Naka Ward, closed on the second day, October 20, with the adoption of the “Hiroshima Appeal,” a joint declaration calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. With the risk of the use of nuclear weapons increasing due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, member cities in each country are working together to call for the national leaders of the nuclear superpowers to change their policies.

Touching on the situation in which Russia has repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons, the appeal pointed out that the risk of a nuclear war breaking out was at its highest and that the dangerous theory of nuclear deterrence was gaining momentum. It called on the nuclear weapon states and their allies under the nuclear umbrella to take immediate actions toward the abolition of nuclear weapons and urge the national leaders to change their policies.

The appeal presented immediate measures to reduce the risk of the use of nuclear weapons. It called on the United Nations and national governments to address six items, including the following: full implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which imposes nuclear disarmament efforts on the nuclear weapon states; departure from nuclear deterrence theory and ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons; and inclusion of “Disarmament and Cities” on the UN General Assembly agenda to prevent nuclear attacks on cities and their citizens.

At the closing event, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, who is also president of Mayors for Peace, read aloud the appeal, which was then adopted with applause. At a press conference after the event, Mr. Matsui emphasized, “We were able to deepen solidarity among member cities that continue to strive for the ideal of abolishing nuclear weapons.” Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue, vice president of the group, summed it up by saying, “We were able to confirm that we would expand networking activities of the cities.”

It has been nine years since the last general conference was held in Hiroshima. A total of 122 cities in 22 countries participated (including online), of which about 180 people from 102 cities in nine countries were present. The online participation of Volgograd, Russia, could not be confirmed. The next general conference will be held in Nagasaki in 2025.

Commentary: Unable to go into concrete actions

Mayors for Peace expressed a sense of crisis over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its nuclear threats in the appeal adopted at the general conference on October 20. However, there was a cautious stance on the new actions by uniting the member cities.

The appeal called for a discussion on “Disarmament and Cities” at the UN General Assembly, expressed concern about Russia’s armed attack and threats to use nuclear weapons, and pressed the UN and national governments to take immediate measures from the perspective of cities that would be victims if nuclear weapons were used.

On the other hand, it is questionable whether Mayors for Peace itself was able to come up with new actions. At the general conference of domestic member cities, there was a proposal to urge member cities to take actions regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, president of Mayors for peace, expressed the recognition that this could cause misunderstandings if not done with considerable caution. The appeal contained no words of direct condemnation of Russia, nor any concrete actions that Mayors for Peace would swiftly take in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

At the general conference, Hiroshima’s sister city, Volgograd, Russia, resigned from the position of vice president city after serving for 35 years. How can we overcome the walls of nations where conflicts between nations are intensifying and lead to a peaceful world without nuclear weapons? This is truly a critical moment for city solidarity.

(Originally published on October 21, 2022)