Toward a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World: One Billion Citizens’ Appeal

January 31st, 2016 - by admin

Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation & Foreign Press Center Japan & Hajimu Takeda / Asahi Shimbun – 2016-01-31 02:00:48

“Toward a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World:
One Billion Citizens’ Appeal”

Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation & Foreign Press Center Japan

(January 25, 2016) — An Open Letter from Mayors for Peace to all United Nations Member States:

In August 1945, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were reduced to ruins, each by a single atomic bomb, and more than 210,000 people from the two cities lost their precious lives. Those who barely managed to survive had their lives totally changed and their endless suffering ha s continued to this day, 70 years later.

Having lived through an experience too cruel to be put into words, the hibakusha — atomic bomb survivors — have continued to appeal for nuclear abolition and to convey their desire for peace to the people of the world. Their dedication stems from their deep humanitarian conviction that “no one else should ever again suffer as we have.”

We, Mayors for Peace, are an international nonpartisan non-governmental organization with members who profoundly empathize with the spirit of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and strive to establish a world free of nuclear weapons, as well as to realize peace and sustainable development.

These aims are based on the mayoral responsibility to protect the safety and welfare of our people. We are writing today on behalf of all members of our organization, which is currently composed of over 6,900 member cities from 161 countries and regions, representing over a billion citizens from around the world. Our members keep growing.

We are deeply concerned that, even a quarter of a century since the Cold War’s end, nearly 16,000 nuclear warheads still exist in today’s world, which is filled with violence and countless seeds of conflict. Declassified documents have revealed that the risks of inadvertent nuclear weapons use due to accident or miscalculation are quite high.

We also cannot ignore the danger posed by nuclear terrorism. Given the catastrophic consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, every State and every citizen has a stake in the total elimination of these repugnant weapons.

This is why we must insist that this issue be addressed immediately. We do commend the limited but welcome progress that has been made, such as a reduction in deployments of some strategic nuclear weapons and the continuation of moratoriums on nuclear testing. These are important efforts, but unfortunately, inadequate.

With about 2,000 nuclear weapons on high alert, the threatened use of nuclear weapons that is euphemistically called “deterrence,” and the unspeakable horror it implies, is still the mainstay of the international security regime.

This stance itself holds elements of danger, potentially inducing nuclear proliferation, such as problem s similar to North Korea’s nuclear development. There may be a need to question if nuclear deterrence can offer any effective solutions to the global security challenges we face today. In this context, we believe that the international community needs to join forces and discuss how we can address real issues.

It is urgent for nuclear-weapon states and those under the nuclear ‘umbrella’ to conduct earnest dialogues to plan for their security without reliance on the concept of nuclear deterrence. In pursuit of such efforts, we must not forget the important role civil society can perform to overcome mutual distrust and nurture a shared sense of awareness that we belong to the same human family.

On one hand, we understand that many differences exist in the world community over the timing, scope, and modalities for achieving nuclear disarmament. Yet it is clear that we cannot ignore the existing threat of nuclear weapons.

That is why we are calling on the world leaders to advance such policy discussions at once. In this regard, we believe that every leader would benefit from visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and listening intently to hibakusha.

As a concrete step to spur such discussion, we strongly urge all States — especially those possessing nuclear weapons and their umbrella states — to participate actively in the Open-Ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament that the UN General Assembly established last year, and to start engaging in constructive deliberations regardless of their political sensibilities.

We do not believe it is necessary to have a global consensus on all matters prior to commencing the activities of this Working Group. In fact, prospects for future progress will only diminish by failing to engage in constructive deliberations on ways to build common ground and overcome differences.

Global nuclear disarmament can only be achieved if it is universal in scope; this will require the participation of all States in the process of achieving that goal. Non-nuclear-weapon states have a stake in nuclear disarmament in the sense that they could be the victims, themselves, of a nuclear weapon attack, even if they are committed to non-proliferation.

This Working Group will provide a good opportunity for the nuclear-weapon states and their umbrella states to listen to a wide range of voices from civil society and non-nuclear-weapon states seeking nuclear disarmament.

Furthermore, the Working Group will also provide a superb opportunity for the world community to address practical concerns during the disarmament process, including such issues as verification, transparency, and irreversibility.

It will also be an appropriate forum to commence a serious discussion of the risks and benefits of realizing a world free of nuclear weapons and the legal framework needed to achieve it. We should take this valuable opportunity to deepen the world’s understanding of the challenges ahead in realizing this great and historic goal.

Mayors for Peace appreciates the opportunity to participate in the discussions of this Working Group as a member of civil society seeking a nuclear-weapon-free world. We assert that a legal prohibition of nuclear weapons will mark a significant turning point toward a world without nuclear weapons.

At the same time, we are keenly aware of the role and responsibilities of civil society in creating a foundation for sustainable peace.

If we can cultivate a sense of global community as one human family and transcend our differences, it will lead to a society where diversity is treasured and disputes are resolved through peaceful means. We will work together with civil society partners around the world to cultivate mutual understanding in the pursuit of this sustainable peace.

In closing, once again we strongly urge all countries to participate actively in this Working Group and start constructive deliberations. We ask the policymakers of the world to work with sincerity and in good faith.

As an important part of civil society, we shall spare no effort in working cooperatively with you. Instead of another year of setbacks, deepened rivalries, diminished expectations, and lost opportunities, let us make 2016 a year of significant progress in global nuclear disarmament.

Consolidated efforts by state and city governments, together with diverse civil society partners, such as women, youth, lawyers, religious leaders, medical workers, entrepreneurs, scholars, educators, artists, and athletes, can change the world. It is time for us to transcend our various positions and work together for the common good of international society. Let us work together to finish this important job.

Contact information: Mayors for Peace Secretariat c/o Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation 1-5 Nakajima-cho, Naka-ku, Hiroshima 730-0811 Japan
Tel: +81-82-242-7821.Fax: +81-82-242-7452

Japan Reconsiders,
Decides to join UN Nuclear Disarmament Group

Hajimu Takeda / Asahi Shimbun

TOYKO (January 28, 2016) — Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the Lower House plenary session Jan. 22 (Shogo Koshida)

Tokyo, in a sharp reversal of policy, will now join a UN nuclear disarmament group even though it still does not want a treaty banning weapons of mass destruction.

Japan, the only nation to suffer the horrors of a nuclear attack, now ironically sits beneath the nuclear umbrella of its ally the United States so it originally abstained from the vote to set up the disarmament working group along with 33 other nations, including NATO members.

Tokyo’s decision to now participate shows that it wants its own opinions on nuclear disarmament reflected in the group’s discussions, such as its hope that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty will be ratified by the nations that have so far refused to do so.

The establishment of the Open-Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament was approved last autumn as a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly.

The first session of the working group will be held in Geneva in February, with two more sessions scheduled for May and August.

In addition to the 34 abstentions, 12 countries voted against the proposal for setting up the working group, including the nuclear powers of the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia.

The new working group plans to present a recommendation on nuclear disarmament at a meeting of the UN General Assembly in October.

Japanese delegates are expected to attend a preliminary meeting in Geneva on Jan. 28, which will pick the chair and decide how the group’s sessions should be managed.

In the meeting, they will argue that any recommendation made by the working group should be based on a unanimous endorsement, and not a vote.

“As far as numbers are concerned, the group of nonnuclear powers demanding legal measures is overwhelming,” said a senior official with the Japanese Foreign Ministry. “If a vote is adopted to decide on the planned recommendation, Japan’s argument will likely be ignored.”

The working group was founded following a strong push from Mexico, Austria, South Africa and other countries without nuclear weapons, which called for “legal measures” to achieve nuclear disarmament. The proposal was approved by 138 nations, about two-thirds of the UN member nations.

Mexico and other nonnuclear nations are expected to work together to foster momentum toward a nuclear ban treaty.

Japan is not in favor of a nuclear ban treaty. The nation’s defense policy remains unchanged in that it needs to benefit from the U.S. nuclear deterrent in the immediate future.

But it apparently decided on joining the working group on the condition that a variety of views should be reflected in the group’s debate, including a view that legal measures refer not only to a treaty banning nuclear weapons, but also one banning the testing of nuclear weapons.

In that context, Japan concluded that Washington would not oppose its bid to join the working group.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who is from Hiroshima, has pledged that Japan will lead global efforts toward a nuclear-free world.

In April, the nation will host a Group of Seven Foreign Ministers meeting in Hiroshima, the first time such talks have been held in the city leveled by a U.S. atomic bomb in 1945.

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