Peace Boat in New York: Advocating for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons at the UN and Beyond

Peace Boat’s 102nd Global Voyage docked in New York City on October 10 and 11, 2019. The timing coincided with the first week of the First Committee meetings of the UN General Assembly, which discusses issues related to disarmament and international security. Peace Boat collaborated with the Hibakusha Appeal International Signature Campaign (Hibakusha Appeal) and other partners to advocate for nuclear weapons abolition at the UN and beyond.

On October 10, a side event to the First Committee was held at the UN Headquarters, with the sponsorship of the Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations. Titled “Hibakusha Appeal for the prohibition and elimination of Nuclear Weapons”, the event aimed to build further momentum to promote signatures and ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). In the opening remarks, Ambassador Jan Kickert of Austria highlighted the importance of continuing to highlight the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. Hiroshima survivor Fujimori Toshiki and Hibakusha Appeal campaigner Suzuki Keina then gave powerful speeches on the efforts that have been made by atomic-bomb survivors (Hibakusha) and other members of civil society, which led to over 10 million signatures in support of the TPNW. Subsequent discussion with the audience centered around how governments, international organisations and civil society can work together to advance the goal of nuclear disarmament.

Ambassador Jan Kickert of Austria giving remarks at the side event on October 10

In the evening, a concert was held at the Community Church of New York. The event began with a short video “Hibakusha”, which was produced by PEAC Institute with campaign ambassador, the renowned musician DJ Spooky, to promote the Hibakusha Appeal. This was followed by a testimony by Fujimori Toshiki, who shared with the audience his family’s experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Then, music duo from Japan Insheart performed three songs, all about healing and peace. In particular, the last song “Nagasaki,” based on the stories of three Nagasaki atomic-bomb survivors, powerfully spoke to the unending and illegitimate suffering the hibakusha have gone through. The event also featured speeches by Yamashita Yasuaki, a Nagasaki survivor living in Mexico; Azuma Chizuru, a well-known actor from Hiroshima, as well as Alei Rizvi and Fatema Gamal Basouny from PEAC Institute. From different angles, these speakers spoke of how we should make sure that Hibakusha’s message is never forgotten and that nuclear weapons are never used again.

Both events on October 11 were organized by the Hibakusha Appeal, with the support of Peace Boat and Soka Gakkai International (SGI).

Music duo Insheart playing at the evening event on October 10

On October 11, over 10.5 million signatures gathered by the Hibakusha Appeal were submitted at the United Nations Headquarters. Receiving these signatures were the chair of the First Committee Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz Ambassador of Bolivia to the United Nations and Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Nakamitsu Izumi. In submitting the signatures, Fujimori Toshiki asked Ambassador Llorenty and High Representative Nakamitsu for a renewed commitment on the part of the UN and state representatives to initiatives that lead to the total elimination of nuclear weapons. To this, Ambassador Llorenty replied by saying that he is proud that his country Bolivia has signed and ratified the treaty and that he would renew his commitment to advance the cause. Ms Nakamitsu also showed appreciation towards the Hibakusha’s tireless advocacy work.

Submission of Hibakusha Appeal Signatures from Mr. Toshiki Fujimori to Ambassador Llorenty Soliz and Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu on October 11

In the meantime, onboard Peace Boat, Peace Boat and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) collaborated to organize a youth-focused programme, “Youth Champions for Securing our Common Future”. There, disarmament experts from UNODA, member states and civil society engaged in lively exchange with the participating youth on nuclear disarmament, small arms and autonomous weapons systems. See this post for a more detailed report of this event.

Discussion onboard Peace Boat during “Youth Champions for Securing our Common Future”

Through these events, Peace Boat explored a range of possible approaches for nuclear disarmament and also created new partnerships with organisations and individuals in New York. Peace Boat will continue its advocacy work on nuclear disarmament, through the Global Voyages for a Nuclear-Free World: Peace Boat Hibakusha Project and other initiatives.

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