Dispatches from Nagasaki No.6

The Nagasaki Youth Delegation gears up for Geneva

(April 15, 2013) Eight young residents of the atomic-bombed land of Nagasaki will form the Nagasaki Youth Delegation (a contingent authorized by the prefectural and municipal governments) and attend the Second Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in Geneva this spring. This project is organized by the PCU Nagasaki Council for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (or PCU Nagasaki Council), a consortium involving Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki City and Nagasaki University. (For more information on this council see Dispatch #5.) At the end of January, a recruitment campaign aimed at young people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five living, studying or working in Nagasaki Prefecture was launched with the tagline “Will you represent the youth of Nagasaki and appeal in Geneva for the abolition of nuclear weapons?” After receiving many applications, secondary evaluations based on written submissions and English interviews were conducted and eight people were selected as representatives. The final group consisted of five university undergraduate students, two graduate students and one working person.

In the background of the planning for this project was an issue that has constantly proved problematic for the atomic-bombed land of Nagasaki. Nagasaki’s peace education programs for elementary and junior high school students and peace activities for high school students are known to be thriving (see Dispatch #1 for reference). Of particular note is the Nagasaki Youth Peace Messengers and Ten Thousand Signature Campaign of High School Students, a lively effort conducted by the high-school-age generation that attracts considerable attention from the local media.

In contrast, however, it is generally opined that there are no conspicuous activities for the age group covering university students in undergraduate and graduate programs. Many high school students who are enthusiastic about peace activities leave their hometown after graduating, and those who stay behind tend to drift away from such efforts as their lives become focused on studies and part-time jobs. Even at Nagasaki University, the only university in the world with the legacy of an atomic-bombed medical college, there are no student groups focused on efforts to abolish nuclear weapons. With the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombing approaching and the survivors aging at an accelerated rate, it has become crucial that we think about how to get the young generation to take up the cherished wish of those in the atomic-bombed land for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The founding of the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Nagasaki University (RECNA) in April of 2012 provided an opportunity to alter this situation. RECNA Supporters, a group consisting of students who express interest in RECNA’s activities, has developed into a platform for efforts by young people who feel that they would like to do something to help. That October, RECNA faculty members began teaching a series of liberal arts classes entitled Towards a World Free from Nuclear Weapons. Out of this groundwork rose the PCU Nagasaki Council with its mandated goal of “nurturing human resources who will be able to lead the next generation.” Concrete plans for the Nagasaki Youth Delegation were then put into place.

Members of the Nagasaki Youth Delegation will be in Geneva for the first half of the Preparatory Committee, which will be held from April 22 to May 3. They will observe the official meetings and take part in concurrently-scheduled NGO-sponsored events and forums where NGO members and diplomats can exchange opinions. Through this they will learn about tangible methods that can be used to realize Nagasaki’s long-cherished wish for the abolishment of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, they will work toward building a network for young people around the world who share the desire to see nuclear weapons eliminated. Plans also call for them to use social media to stay in contact with their partners in Japan and to send back reports on their activities. PCU Nagasaki Council Chairman Susumu Shirabe stated his expectations when he said “See the world shift before your eyes and interact with young people from other countries. I hope this will lead you to think for yourselves and develop your ability to convey your ideas to others.”

Plans call for dispatches of the Nagasaki Youth Delegation to continue beyond next year.

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