By Jamshed Baruah
“I urge you all, as human beings, to consider again the inhumanity of atomic weapons,” Tomihisa Taue, the Mayor of Nagasaki and Vice President of the Mayors for Peace organisation told government representatives participating in a crucial event well in time for an international conference in 2015 to review the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Initiated in 1982 by the mayors of Japanese cities Nagasaki and Hiroshima – on which the U.S. dropped atomic bombs in August 1945 killing more than 200,000 women, children and elderly – the Mayors for Peace group comprises 5,000 cities that are home to nearly a billion people. Those who survived the first atom bombs in history suffer even now from the aftereffects of radiation.
Before the start of the First Preparatory Committee (Prepcom) for the 2015 NPT Review Conference April 30 to May 11, 2012 in Vienna, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) held a meeting on April 28-29, to strategize for the upcoming event and exchange ideas and plans. The meeting was supported by the governments of Austria and Norway and Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a Tokyo-based Buddhist organisation, wedded to the cause of a world without nuclear weapons.
In fact, Kazumi Matsui, mayor of Hiroshima, has been exploring the possibility of holding the 2015 NPT Review Conference in Hiroshima city. The merit of this proposal lies in the fact that it would bring the leaders of the nuclear powers to the first city where an atomic bomb was dropped to discuss the abolition of nuclear weapons. Supporting the move, the Nagasaki mayor asked government representatives in the Prepcom: “. . . is there any location more appropriate than Hiroshima to discuss completely eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons and creating a world without them?”
In an eminent civil society presentation to the Prepcom on May 2, 2012 in Vienna, the Nagasaki Mayor asked government representatives: “Isn’t it absurd that investing the immense sum of 1.63 trillion dollars worldwide on military expenditures such as in 2010 in the name of national security has only led to a more dangerous world? Is it not time now to display the strong will required to free us from that danger?”
Taue was not being rhetorical: The Final Document emerging from the 2010 NPT Review Conference expresses deep concern for the catastrophic humanitarian consequences from any use of atomic weapons, and all States Parties unanimously reaffirmed the need to observe international law.
But debates on nuclear weapons continue to start and end with the so-called national interests, the balance of military force, and the effectiveness of military technology. “I wonder if representatives from the nuclear powers understand the true horror of nuclear weapons,” said Taue.
“It is the atomic bomb survivors whose voices bring us back to seeing and discussing the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and it is imperative that all parties listen to those voices and come to understand why they appeal so desperately for a world free of nuclear weapons,” he added.
Several atomic bomb survivors from Japan were in Vienna on the occasion of the First Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference. An atomic bomb exhibition was on display at the Vienna International Centre and it was also held at Vienna City Hall.
The Nagasaki city mayor’s impassioned plea for “fulfilling our responsibility to pass on to future generations a world without nuclear weapons” sounds compelling for yet another reason. At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the first chairman’s draft from Committee One included ground-breaking measures to obligate nuclear powers to make concrete efforts to establish a world free of nuclear weapons and to empower the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to convene a meeting as early as 2014 for the creation of a roadmap to the complete abolition of nuclear weapons.
This was inspired by Ban’s 2008 five-point proposal that included a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC), and when this proposal was tabled, the world appeared to be finally getting closer to the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons.
However, while there were references to the NWC in the Final Document, the part regarding the convening of a meeting for a roadmap was removed. Despite the clear indication of the unanimous desire for a world without nuclear weapons, no concrete timeframes or methods to this end were stated.
Mayors for Peace is calling for immediate preliminary arrangements and the speedy convening of this roadmap meeting. In February 2012, 33 heads of state from Latin America and the Caribbean expressed their strong commitment to work on convening an international high-level conference to set forth a program in stages for the total elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified framework of time.
In a clarion call, Taue urged the leaders of nuclear powers to listen to the voices from civil and international society. “We urge you to make efforts at this preliminary conference to ensure that the 2015 NPT Review Conference will become the starting point for the realization of this roadmap meeting and the place to gain the consensus to conclude a Nuclear Weapons Convention. We trust that the 2015 NPT Review Conference will clearly show how and in what timeframe a world without nuclear weapons will be realized,” the Nagasaki mayor added.
Such a timeframe is quite realistic. Treaties concluded among nations have created nuclear-weapon-free zones where the stationing, production, acquisition, possession, and control of nuclear weapons are prohibited. Given the political will, nuke-free zones are one concrete method towards the abolition of nuclear weapons.
There is also an agreement to hold a meeting for the establishment of such a nuclear-weapon free zone in the Middle East this year. In Northeast Asia, the international community is faced with the North Korean nuclear issue and keenly aware of the importance of establishing this nuclear-weapon-free zone. “Leaders of the world, let’s work together to create more of these zones to bring us closer to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons,” said Taue. He urged them to make additional efforts for nuclear disarmament as mandated in Article 6 of the NPT.
At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, 42 governments including Japan stressed the importance of arms reduction and non-proliferation education. Accordingly, the Japanese government will be holding a ‘Global Forum on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education’ in Nagasaki in August 2012, The Forum is expected to provide a lively debate and attendance from many NGOs, government representatives, and specialists from around the world.