Above photo: Atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Although more than 50,000 nuclear weapons have been eliminated since 1986, more than 17,000 remain. It would only take a small number of these weapons of mass destruction to end civilization and most life on earth. Nine countries possess nuclear weapons, another five host U.S. nuclear weapons on their soil, and more still base their security on alliances with nuclear weapon states. Countless atomic bomb survivors worked hard until their last days for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The danger of nuclear annihilation, by accident, miscalculation or design continues to cast a dark shadow over humanity’s future. In addition, the failure of the nuclear weapon states to achieve more progress toward a nuclear weapons free world is undermining the legitimacy of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The nuclear weapon states’ repeated delays in fulfilling their “unequivocal” commitment to nuclear disarmament has discredited the nonproliferation regime and may destroy it.
The massive and ongoing releases of radiation from the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima nuclear power plant which resulted from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, demonstrated yet again the inability of human beings to control nuclear technology. The fear and suffering of Fukushima citizens for their health and life renewed our recognition of the danger of radioactivity, whether from nuclear weapons or nuclear energy. The experiences of Fukushima and the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima have shown us that the effects of nuclear disasters are uncontrollable in time and space.
Despite the daunting challenges, there are reasons for hope. Among them, the renewed emphasis on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use, which the hibakusha have been calling for for decades. In 1996, the International Court of Justice, in considering the uniquely destructive effects of nuclear weapons concluded that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be generally illegal. The final document of the 2010 NPT review conference expressed “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” and reaffirmed “the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.”
Describing the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, the resolution adopted in November 2011 by the Council of Delegates of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement identified the need to “conclude … negotiations to prohibit the use of and completely eliminate nuclear weapons through a legally binding international agreement.” Since 2010, the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons have been discussed in the United Nations General Assembly and at preparatory committee meetings for the 2015 NPT Review Conference. In addition, an international conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, hosted by the government of Norway, was held in Oslo in March 2013. A follow-on meeting, will be hosted by the government of Mexico in February 2014. We welcome this trend and expect it to contribute to global efforts to achieve the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.
The 2010 NPT Review Conference agreed: “All States need to make special efforts to establish the necessary framework to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons,” noting in particular “the Five-Point Proposal for Nuclear Disarmament of the Secretary-General of the United Nations,” including the call for negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention. The Open Ended Working Group to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons held meetings in Geneva for the first time in May, June and August of this year. It was a new situation in which representatives of government and civil society participated as equals. This prompted the Conference on Disarmament, following 17 years of inaction, to establish an informal working group on nuclear disarmament. In addition, the first High Level Meeting on nuclear disarmament in the United Nations General Assembly was held in September 2013. This is being followed up by the Non Aligned Movement proposal to establish 26 September as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and to hold a High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament no later than 2018. We are encouraged by such efforts and hope they continue.
We emphasize and reiterate that nuclear weapons are indiscriminate and inhumane weapons of mass destruction, and their use would be impermissible under any circumstances. The idea that nuclear deterrence can assure a country’s security is delusional. Another use of nuclear weapons would cause human death and suffering across national borders and generations. It would result in destruction of the environment and entire ecosystems. Even a relatively small regional nuclear exchange could result in a global “nuclear famine” leading to a billion deaths.
Against this background, we appeal for the following concrete actions.
- Negotiations on the comprehensive prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons should start on the earliest occasion. We call for negotiations to begin in 2014, and for these negotiations to be supported by the NPT Review Conference in 2015 and the High Level Conference proposed to take place no later than 2018.
- The nuclear-armed countries, especially those with the largest arsenals, the U.S. and Russia, should make significant reductions in their strategic and non-strategic, deployed and undeployed nuclear stockpiles through bilateral or unilateral measures. All nuclear-armed countries should halt development and modernization of their nuclear weapons systems. The obscene amounts of money and scientific resources dedicated to these ends should be reallocated to meeting social and economic needs.
- All nations should phase out the role and significance of nuclear weapons in their military and foreign policies. Nuclear-armed countries and those countries that rely on nuclear umbrellas have a special responsibility. Nuclear-free countries can also take steps to delegitimize and stigmatize nuclear weapons, such as enacting national legislation and divesting from nuclear weapons industries.
- Governments and civil society should publicize the decision of the District Court of Tokyo in the Shimoda case: “The [atomic bomb] attacks upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused such severe and indiscriminate suffering that they did violate the most basic legal principles governing the conduct of war,” especially following the 50th anniversary of the December 8, 1963 decision.
- We encourage greater citizen participation in campaigns for the elimination of nuclear weapons, such as Mayors for Peace, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (PNND), the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons (Abolition 2000), the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). We welcome the engagement of young people around the world.
- We call for a redoubling of efforts to establish new nuclear weapon-free zones, including in the Middle East, Northeast Asia and the Arctic Circle. Nuclear weapon-free zones diminish the role of nuclear weapons in national security policies and reduce the risks of nuclear weapons use at the regional level. They also provide an achievable and more secure alternative to extended nuclear deterrence.
- The nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant continues to cause immeasurable damage and suffering to the citizens of Fukushima Prefecture and beyond. Those responsible for the Fukushima accident should be held accountable. At the same time, civil society should support programs to assist displaced residents and restore, as much as feasible, the damaged areas in Fukushima. Information about the ongoing crisis should be transparent and publically available. Those exposed to radiation should be guaranteed long-term medical assistance. We must not let Fukushima be forgotten.
- The accident at Fukushima has taught us that we cannot continue to rely upon nuclear energy. The hibakusha’s experience of the atomic bomb was brought to the United Nations in 1982 by Senji Yamaguchi, who declared: “No More Hiroshimas, No More Nagasakis, No more Hibakusha, No More War!” The accident at Fukushima requires the addition of “No More Fukushimas!”
As the only nation that has experienced nuclear attacks in war, Japan has a special responsibility to lead in achieving a world without nuclear weapons. Therefore:
- We welcome Japan joining 124 other governments in signing a joint statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in the United Nations General Assembly First Committee on 21 October 2013. However, we regret the U.S. – Japanese joint security statement of 3 October 2013 which reaffirmed the Alliance’s commitment to the security of Japan “through the full range of U.S. military capabilities, including nuclear and conventional.” The Japanese government should change its policy of reliance on the U.S. nuclear umbrella in conformity with the joint statement that indicates clearly that the continued existence of all humanity depends on not using nuclear weapons “under any circumstances.”
- We believe that the Japanese government should pursue the establishment of a nuclear weapon-free zone in Northeast Asia as a path to achieving security that does not rely upon nuclear deterrence. Leaders of 532 local authorities in Japan have expressed support for this idea, as did 83 Japanese and South Korean parliamentarians from across the political spectrum in a joint statement on 22 July 2010. In September 2013, the President of Mongolia indicated his country’s interest in exploring the establishment of a nuclear weapon-free zone in Northeast Asia at the United Nations General Assembly. We call upon the Japanese government to initiate a dialogue with the government of South Korea to achieve a Northeast Asia nuclear weapon-free zone.
- We call upon the Japanese government to inform the world about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons as an imperative for the abolition of nuclear weapons. To demonstrate leadership, Japan should take advantage of the opportunity presented by the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative Foreign Ministers’ Meeting to be held in Hiroshima in April 2014. Japan should also urge political leaders and government officials who will participate in the G20 Summit that will be held in Japan in 2016 to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- We call on the Japanese government to seek and welcome independent, international expert assistance in stabilizing, containing and monitoring the radiological crisis at Fukushima.
We, the participants in the 5th Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, heard again the voices of survivors of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and their urgent appeal that the elimination of nuclear weapons becomes a reality while they are still alive. We also listened to hopeful voices of young people accepting responsibility for achieving and maintaining a world without nuclear weapons. The ties of mutual understanding and solidarity were deepened through three days of spirited interaction and discussion.
We pledge to continue our utmost efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons, and we appeal to the people of the world: “Nagasaki must be the last A-bombed city.”
November 4th 2013
The 5th Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons