Symposium promotes the power of citizens for nuclear abolition

by Keisuke Yoshihara, Staff Writer

The Chugoku Shimbun held an international symposium commemorating the launch of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center at the International Conference Center Hiroshima on August 2. The symposium was held in collaboration with the Hiroshima Peace Institute, which is marking the 10th anniversary of its founding at Hiroshima City University. The panelists at the symposium consisted of experts from Japan and abroad who proposed actions that citizens and cities should undertake to promote nuclear weapons abolition in the run-up to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference to be held in 2010.

Before an audience of 420 people, Jayantha Dhanapala, President of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs and former UN Undersecretary General, pointed out in his keynote address, “Civil society, in the post Cold War global situation, has been described as the ‘other super power.’ Indeed the potential of global public opinion, suitably mobilized to change policies, is limitless.” Mr. Dhanapala then highlighted times in which civil society played an important role in successful outcomes, such as the crafting of the Mine Ban Treaty and the draft of a Cluster Munitions Treaty.

In her keynote speech, Rebecca Johnson, Executive Director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy in the U.K, an NGO for international disarmament, compared nuclear abolition to climbing a mountain, saying, “Look around. I think that’s where we are now. Not at the bottom of the mountain or a long way from starting negotiations on a nuclear weapon convention, but just a couple of stages away. We are already in the process of the paradigm shift. Not only by peace activists, but by military leaders as well, nuclear weapons are increasingly viewed as a security problem, not a security asset.”

Kazumi Mizumoto, Associate Professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City University, served as the moderator for the panel discussion with the five presenters, including the two keynote speakers. Akira Kawasaki, Executive Committee Member of Peace Boat, an NGO for international exchange, outlined the “Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War” held in May 2008, and commented, “The people of Japan can play an important role in abolishing nuclear weapons by promoting the spread of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.”

Steven Leeper, Chairman of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, described actions taken by Mayors for Peace, such as the “2020 Vision Campaign,” which aims at the abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020, and the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol, which supports this vision. And Akira Tashiro, Executive Director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center of the Chugoku Shimbun, analyzed the results of an international survey conducted by the center concerning nuclear weapons.

Presentations were also made by young people involved in peace-related activities. Maki Nakamoto, 28, a Hiroshima Peace Volunteer, Michiaki Yamabe, 22, leader of a club at Nagasaki University involved in peace and the environment, and the junior writers of Peace Seeds, a children’s newspaper issued twice a month in the Chugoku Shimbun, all explained their activities.

Before the opening of the symposium, the panelists visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and offered a wreath of flowers at the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims.

(Originally published on August 3, 2008)