Dispatches from Nagasaki No.20

Global High-level Movement Conference on Nuclear Weapons in Nagasaki

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement co-hosted the Global High-level Movement Conference on Nuclear Weapons in Nagasaki, over a three-day period from April 24 to April 26, 2017. Co-hosted with the Japan Red Cross Society (JRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the event was participated in by the representatives of organizations from 35 nations, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica (who is the new president of the United Nations Conference to negotiate a nuclear weapon ban), and other diplomats involved in the negotiations.

The Nagasaki conference adopted “the Nagasaki Declaration,” under the title of “Never again: Nagasaki must be the last atomic bombing.”  The Nagasaki Action Plan was also formulated in order to back-up the efforts to realize a nuclear-weapons-ban treaty, and it is scheduled that the plan will be formally adopted at the next Council of Delegates of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which will be held in Antalya, Turkey, in November this year.

The Nagasaki Declaration demanded the participation of all nations in the United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, which was scheduled to be held in New York in June and July this year, with the words: “All nations have a responsibility to their populations and to future generations to faithfully use this opportunity to shape the course of history.” Furthermore, it urged that: “We are standing at the brink of what will be the turning point in efforts to end the era of nuclear weapons. By negotiating and adopting a treaty that recognizes the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and contains a clear and unambiguous prohibition, States have the opportunity to ensure that Nagasaki is the last place in history to have suffered the effects of an atomic bombing.”
(http://www.jrc.or.jp/information/170426_004754.html (in Japanese))

The activities guidelines of the Action Plan aim to achieve the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons over the next four years. The rough draft prepared in Nagasaki included the following three goals:  1) the Red Cross societies in each nation will enter into dialog with their respective governments and seek to encourage their participation in the nuclear prohibition negotiations; 2) the Red Cross societies will play a role of encouraging momentum towards the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-ban treaty, and 3) support will be provided to enhance the perception of young people concerning nuclear weapons, and activities concerning the abolition of nuclear weapons involving young people.
(digital.asahi.com (in Japanese))

I myself also had an opportunity to give a lecture at the Conference. Ever since the 20th century The Red Cross has made huge achievements in contributing to the enactment of international humanitarian legislation. As a player in the movement for the abolition of nuclear weapons too, it has resolutely and boldly argued from a humanitarian stance. Bringing together the leaders of The Red Cross in Nagasaki, the Conference was a precious forum, and the following is what I had to say.

Firstly, I explained that all the hibakusha, the relics remaining on the bombing site and all the people who still live their daily lives there represent a global power that sends out an endless appeal for the end of nuclear weapons to the rest of the world. Secondly, because of this, a nuclear-weapons-ban treaty should be worded either in its main text or related documents in a manner that encourages political leaders and those drafting or making policies to visit the sites of the atomic bombings. Finally, I suggested that even if the Japanese government is yet to participate in the treaty at the signatory stage, the signing ceremony should be held in Nagasaki. The venue was full of personnel from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement who nodded in agreement as I spoke. And seated in the very back row was none other than Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez herself.

Students belonging to the Nagasaki Youth Delegation whose activities are supported by the PCU Nagasaki Council for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (PCU-NC), which was established by Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki City and Nagasaki University, were also present at the venue to help answer questions from participants, listening to and dealing with queries addressed to them in a variety of English accents. I thought that they had taken on a tough job, but they drew a warm round of applause from all those assembled. Even after the end of the conference the students found themselves surrounded by senior figures from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

On the day after the conference had finished, totally out of coincidence many of the guests at the conference were lined up next to me on the aircraft bound for Tokyo. They told me what a valuable experience their visit to Nagasaki had been. At the press conference held on the last day of the conference, Kathleen Lawand, legal advisor to the International Committee of the Red Cross said: “The conference was held at the time of the historic turning point of a nuclear-weapons-ban treaty, with the attendance of the representatives of many nations. It was a truly significant event.” It was no surprise that she left Nagasaki with the comment that “This was a visit that will remain deeply etched on my memory.”

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