by Akira Tashiro, Executive Director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center
The Hiroshima-Nagasaki Declaration of Nobel Peace Laureates was released by the Chugoku Shimbun, located in the A-bombed city of Hiroshima, on May 17. Signed by seventeen Nobel Peace Prize laureates, the declaration appeals to the world’s political leaders and citizens to take action for the elimination of nuclear weapons. In keen consideration of the importance of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which will convene at United Nations Headquarters in New York in May 2010, just a year from now, the statement seeks to raise anti-nuclear sentiments among the human community so the conference can serve to advance the cause of nuclear abolition.
The signatories include incumbent presidents Oscar Arias Sanchez from Costa Rica and Jose Ramos-Horta from East Timor, former presidents Kim Dae-jung from South Korea and Frederik Willem de Klerk from South Africa, and Wangari Maathai from Kenya, who has been engaged in a campaign of tree planting in Africa and has popularized the Japanese word “mottainai” (“wasteful”) around the world.
The declaration expresses deep apprehension over the “threat of proliferation to non-nuclear weapon states” as well as concern about “the faltering will” of the nuclear powers who are obliged to move toward disarmament under the terms of the NPT.
In pointing out “the fact that humanity has managed to avoid a third nuclear nightmare is not merely a fortunate whim of history,” it offers high praise for the efforts of the A-bomb survivors and their supporters who “have called on the world to avert another Hiroshima or Nagasaki.” At the same time, the declaration warns strongly that unless humanity chooses the path of abolition, “the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” will be repeated.
The statement concludes with the assurance that “eliminating nuclear weapons is indeed a possibility” and the appeal that “humanity must stand together to make this vision a reality.”
The Hiroshima-Nagasaki Declaration of Nobel Peace Laureates was drafted through the initiative of Mairead Maguire, a peace activist in Northern Ireland who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976, and others. Support for the declaration was sought among the thirty Nobel Peace Prize laureates who are living today. Organizational laureates were not approached.
Mairead Maguire visited Hiroshima in May 2008 at the invitation of a citizens’ peace group in Japan. At that time she learned about the Hiroshima Peace Media Center, a wing of the Chugoku Shimbun which runs a bilingual English-Japanese website dedicated to issues concerning peace and the atomic bombings. Ms. Maguire chose the Chugoku Shimbun, which she considers “the most appropriate media for its first-hand knowledge of the devastation of nuclear weapons” as a means of disseminating the declaration to the world.
The Hiroshima-Nagasaki Declaration
of Nobel Peace Laureates
Sixty-four years ago, the horror of atomic bombs was unleashed on Japan, and the world witnessed the destructive power of nuclear weapons. Today, with just a year until the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference convenes at the United Nations in the spring of 2010, we, the undersigned Nobel Peace Laureates, echo U.S. President Barack Obama's call for a world without nuclear weapons and appeal to the leader of every nation to resolutely pursue this goal for the good of all.
We find ourselves in a new era of proliferation. Despite the near universal ratification of the 1970 treaty, which binds states to nuclear disarmament, little progress has been made to fulfill this pact and eliminate nuclear weapons from our world. On the contrary, as the nuclear powers have continued to brandish their weapons, other nations have sought to produce their own nuclear arsenals.
We are deeply troubled by this threat of proliferation to non-nuclear weapon states, but equally concerned at the faltering will of the nuclear powers to move forward in their obligation to disarm their own nations of these dreadful weapons.
The fact that humanity has managed to avoid a third nuclear nightmare is not merely a fortunate whim of history. The resolve of the A-bomb survivors, who have called on the world to avert another Hiroshima or Nagasaki, has surely helped prevent that catastrophe. Moreover, the millions who have supported the survivors in their quest for peace, as well as the reality of our collective restraint, suggest that human beings are imbued with a better, higher nature, an instinct for inhibiting violence and upholding life.
In the months leading up to the NPT Review Conference, this higher nature must rise to guide our efforts. Nations are now reviewing progress in the treaty's implementation and mapping a path forward. For the first time in many years, the opportunity exists for genuine movement toward reducing and eliminating nuclear arms.
As this process unfolds, world leaders will be faced with a stark choice: nuclear nonproliferation or nuclear brinkmanship. We can either put an end to proliferation, and set a course toward abolition; or we can wait for the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be repeated.
We believe it is long past time for humanity to heed the warning made by Albert Einstein in 1946: “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive."
We know that such a new manner of thinking is possible. In the past ten years, the governments of the world, working alongside international institutions, non-governmental organizations, and survivors, have negotiated treaties banning two indiscriminate weapons systems: landmines and cluster bombs. These weapons were banned when the world finally recognized them for the humanitarian disaster they are.
The world is well aware that nuclear weapons are a humanitarian disaster of monstrous proportion. They are indiscriminate, immoral, and illegal. They are military tools whose staggering consequences have already been seen in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the long-term impacts of those attacks. Eliminating nuclear weapons is indeed a possibility-more than that, it is a fundamental necessity in forging a more secure planet for us all.
As Nobel Peace Laureates, we call on the citizens of the world to press their leaders to grasp the peril of inaction and summon the political will to advance toward nuclear disarmament and abolition. To fulfill a world without nuclear weapons, and inspire a greater peace among our kind, humanity must stand together to make this vision a reality.
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by Akira Tashiro, Executive Director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center
It was quite by chance that the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Declaration of Nobel Peace Laureates came into being.
When I visited Paris to cover an international conference for the elimination of nuclear weapons at the end of last year, I met Mairead Maguire at a hotel there. Ms. Maguire, from Northern Ireland, was in Paris to attend another conference. She had visited Hiroshima last May when invited to attend a citizens’ assembly held to urge that the spirit of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, a clause renouncing war, be conveyed to the world. I came to know her through my news-gathering activities at that time.
After the Hiroshima Peace Media Center posted an article and video clip about her visit to Japan on its website, Ms. Maguire had been keeping abreast of activities in Hiroshima and issues surrounding nuclear weapons through this online resource maintained by the Chugoku Shimbun.
As we talked, we came up with the idea of issuing the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Declaration of Nobel Peace Laureates through the Hiroshima Peace Media Center. Ms. Maguire felt that the declaration would be far more meaningful if issued from Hiroshima, a city which suffered an atomic bombing. She agreed to take the lead in preparing a draft and calling on other Nobel Peace Prize laureates to support the statement.
In deciding the timing for the declaration, she noted that the outcome of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference in 2010 is certain to have a major impact on the future of the human race. So we chose to issue the declaration in May 2009, one year before the conference, with a view to spurring anti-nuclear momentum.
By the end of March 2009, the declaration had been completed. Ms. Maguire emailed the statement to her fellow laureates, explained its significance, and appealed for their support. The Chugoku Shimbun also encouraged the laureates to become signatories by sharing information on the Hiroshima Peace Media Center and articles about the atomic bombing. We asked the supporters to contribute their photographs and signatures.
Shortly after we began to call for support of the statement, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke out on nuclear weapons in a speech in Prague on April 5. At that point, we decided to update the declaration to include our endorsement of his vision seeking a world without nuclear weapons. We then sent the revised version of the declaration to the laureates, including those who had already granted their approval.
As the declaration points out, nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism are grave concerns, inextricably linked to the stalemate involving nuclear disarmament. Human beings are now at a crossroads where we “set a course toward abolition or we wait for the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be repeated.”
Amid such circumstance, strong hope still rises when we reflect on the efforts made by the A-bomb survivors in calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons as well as the cooperation displayed by the world’s people and non-governmental organizations in negotiating treaties banning landmines and cluster bombs. The declaration stresses that if the people of our planet are united in upholding the security of our species, nuclear weapons can be eliminated.
The winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, men and women who have made remarkable contributions in the fields of peacemaking, conflict prevention, and the protection of human rights, exemplify the moral conscience of humanity.
Through the words of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Declaration of Nobel Peace Laureates, their aspiration to create a world free from war and poverty is clearly felt.
Both the political leaders and the citizens of Japan, the A-bombed nation, should respond to this earnest appeal by the Nobel Peace Prize laureates and make a fresh resolve to strive toward the realization of a world without nuclear weapons, a world without war.
The Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims and the A-bomb Dome in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the starting point for reflection on the nuclear age and the site from which 17 Nobel Peace laureates have released a declaration appealing to the people of Japan and across the world for the abolition of nuclear weapons.