Opinion: Shared Action for a Nuclear Weapon Free World

Daisaku Ikeda is a Japanese Buddhist philosopher and peace-builder, and president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) grassroots Buddhist movement (www.sgi.org)

By Daisaku Ikeda
TOKYO, Apr 9 2015 (IPS)

From the end of April, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference will be held in New York. In this year that marks the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I add my voice to those urging substantial commitments and real progress toward the realisation of a world without nuclear weapons.

Daisaku Ikeda. Photo credit: Rukomii - Own work/CC BY-SA 3.0

Daisaku Ikeda. Photo credit: Rukomii – Own work/CC BY-SA 3.0

In recent years, there has been an important shift in the debate surrounding nuclear weapons. This can be seen in the fact that, in October of last year, more than 80 percent of the member states of the United Nations lent their support to a joint statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, in this way expressing their shared desire that nuclear weapons never be used – under any circumstances.

Meanwhile, the Third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons held in Vienna, Austria, in December, marked the first time that nuclear-weapon states – the United States and the United Kingdom – participated, acknowledging the existence of a complex debate on this question.

In order to break out of the current deadlock, I believe we need to refocus on the fundamental inhumanity of nuclear weapons in the full breadth of their impacts. Taking this as our point of departure, we must formulate measures to ensure that no country or people ever suffer the kind of irreparable damage that nuclear weapons would wreak.

Here, I would like to propose two specific initiatives. One is to develop a new NPT-centred institutional framework – a commission dedicated to nuclear disarmament:“We must formulate measures to ensure that no country or people ever suffer the kind of irreparable damage that nuclear weapons would wreak”

I urge the heads of government of as many states as possible to attend the NPT Review Conference this year, and that they participate in a forum where the findings of the international conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons are shared.

Then, in light of the fact that all parties to the NPT unanimously expressed their concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons at the 2010 Review Conference, I hope that each head of government or national delegation will take the opportunity of this year’s conference to introduce their respective plans of action to prevent such consequences.

Finally, building upon the “unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament,” reaffirmed at the 2000 Review Conference, I propose that an “NPT disarmament commission” be established as a subsidiary organ to the NPT to ensure the prompt and concrete fulfilment of this commitment.

The second initiative I would like to propose concerns the creation of a platform for negotiations for a legal instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons:

Creation of such a platform should be based on a careful evaluation of the outcome of this year’s NPT Review Conference, and it could draw on the 2013 General Assembly resolution calling for a United Nations high-level international conference on nuclear disarmament to be convened no later than 2018. This conference could be held in 2016 to begin the process of drafting a new treaty.

I strongly hope that Japan will work with other countries and with civil society to accelerate the process of eliminating nuclear weapons from our world.

In August of this year, the United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues will be held in Hiroshima; the World Nuclear Victims’ Forum will take place in November, also in Hiroshima; and the annual Pugwash conference will be held in Nagasaki in November.

Planning is also under way for a World Youth Summit for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons to be held in Hiroshima at the end of August as a joint initiative by the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) and other groups. I hope that the summit will adopt a youth declaration pledging to bring the era of nuclear weapons to an end, and that it will help foster a greater solidarity among the world’s youth in support of a treaty to prohibit these weapons.

At the Vienna Conference in December, the government of Austria issued a pledge to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders in order to realise the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

In the same spirit, together with the representatives of other faith-based organisations, the SGI last year organised interfaith panels in Washington D.C. and Vienna which issued Joint Statements expressing the participants’ pledge to work together for a world free of nuclear weapons.

The future is determined by the depth and intensity of the pledge made by people living in the present moment. The key to bringing the history of nuclear weapons to a close lies in ensuring that all actors – states, international organisations and civil society – take shared action, working with like-minded partners while holding fast to a deep commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons.

Edited by Phil Harris    

Mexican Human Rights Fight Illustrated in New Graphic Novel Series

By Josh Butler

A Dublin-based human rights group has launched a series of graphic novels highlighting the stories of activist groups and rights struggles around the world.

Front Line Defenders, the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, this month launched the first instalment in the series, “La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights Defenders in Mexico.”

The comic book-style work focuses on the stories of women human rights defenders in northern Mexico, in the cities of Chihuahua and Juarez – “consistently two of the most dangerous cities in the world for more than a decade,” Front Line Defenders said in a statement announcing the graphic novel.

“La Lucha recounts the stories of Lucha Castro, some of her colleagues at her organisation – Centro de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres – in Chihuahua, and of other WHRDs who sacrificed their lives in the defense of women’s and human rights in their communities,” the statement continued.

La Lucha is the first in a series Front Line Defenders said was “unprecedented” in the human rights field. The novel is published in English and will soon be available in Spanish, as well as in a “dynamic digital format” with multimedia elements.

“This book gives evidence of the risks and adversities human rights defenders across the world have to face to make the rights of their communities a reality”, said Adam Shapiro, Head of Campaigns at Front Line Defenders and co-author of the book.

“The bravery, persistence and hope women rights defenders featured in the book exhibit in their day to day lives make up these stories of real life heroes.”

Lucha Castro is the main character in the novel. She said it was important to shed lights on injustices and to spread information about how they can be avoided into the future.

“In my journey as a defender, I have learned to listen to the stories of women who suffer violations of their human rights, with compassion and a reverence that compels me to respect their lives,” she said.

“I am convinced that it is through acts of love and justice that we can proclaim the scandal of all the unjust acts imposed on women, represented by all forms of violence, many of them hidden. By empowering women we can encourage them to rebuild their lives.”

La Lucha is available at bookstores and also online.

Follow Josh Butler on Twitter: @JoshButler