The Hiroshima Peace Summit


The Asahi Shimbum, Editorial – TRANSCEND Media Service

Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize gathered in Hiroshima over the weekend [Nov 12-14, 2010] for an international conference held under the theme: The Legacy of Hiroshima: A World Without Nuclear Weapons.”

Six Nobel Peace laureates, including the 14th Dalai Lama, the supreme leader of Tibetan Buddhism, and F.W. de Klerk, the former president of South Africa who dismantled the country’s notorious apartheid, attended the meeting. Representatives of 13 institutional winners, including the International Atomic Energy Agency and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, also attended.

The participants issued a declaration that called for popularizing the view that the use of nuclear weapons is immoral and illegal, immediately ratifying the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by the United States and Russia, and deeply cutting the nuclear arsenals of nuclear powers.

The organizers of the conference and the city of Hiroshima invited U.S. President Barack Obama, who won the prize last year, to attend, but to no avail.

The Democratic Party’s drubbing in recent U.S. midterm elections has dimmed prospects for any early ratification of the New START and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The U.S. government’s moves to increase the nuclear arms budget and conduct a subcritical nuclear test in September have caused deep disappointment in Hiroshima, leaving many citizens feeling “betrayed” by Obama.

But the three days of serious discussions by peace leaders in the city reinforced the view that Obama’s vision of “a world without nuclear weapons” has become a common goal for the international community. The momentum should be increased further.

It is notable that the declaration issued by this year’s World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates supported a nuclear weapons convention. In 2007, Malaysia and Costa Rica submitted a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention, a proposed treaty to ban nuclear arms, to the U.N. General Assembly.

While the proposal has not been adopted, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it “a good point of departure” when he presented his five-point program for nuclear arms reduction.

In May this year, the proposed treaty was also mentioned, for the first time, by a final document adopted at the review conference for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

At the Hiroshima conference, participants heard the story of how the landmark international treaty banning antipersonnel land mines came into being.

The efforts to bring about the treaty were led by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working for a world free of antipersonnel land mines.

The NGOs from countries around the world first sought action from their governments. Some nations, including Belgium and Austria, responded to the campaign by enacting domestic legislation to ban antipersonnel land mines. These activities became the driving force for the success of inter-governmental talks for a ban on land mines.

During the Hiroshima conference, Jody Williams, the campaign’s founding coordinator who received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize along with the organization, stressed the importance of citizens’ initiative. Simply waiting for government action won’t do, Williams said. The elimination of nuclear weapons will not become reality unless citizens take action, she argued.

Lessons should be learned from the successful campaign for the mine ban treaty. One good first step would be a preparatory meeting in Hiroshima or Nagasaki involving the government, lawmakers, NGOs and citizens to start laying the groundwork for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureates were moved by the words of a survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima. After recounting his own horrific experience, he said, “I hate atomic bombs, but I know we cannot erase hatred with hatred.”

His message was that efforts should focus on preventing a cycle of violence and ensuring nobody will experience what he went through in the future. This message should also spread through the world.

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