Innocent civilians – infants, the aged and everyone in between – are the indiscriminate targets of nuclear weapon attacks. The existence today of thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, combined with the ever present possibility of human error, keep all of humanity on the brink of fatal consequences.
It is with this in mind that Peace Boat played an active role in representing civil society at the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) held at the UN Headquarters in New York from April 27 to May 22, 2015.
During this Review Conference, Peace Boat worked in cooperation with other civil society groups including The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Hibakusha Stories, and Peace Boat US to strengthen awareness of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and to call for a global ban on nuclear weapons. Peace Boat also worked closely with Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) including Setsuko Thurlow and Yamashita Yasuaki, the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Clifton Truman Daniel, a nuclear disarmament supporter and the grandson of President Harry Truman, under whose administration the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were authorized.
Peace Boat’s activities at the NPT Review Conference were multifaceted, including both public education and policy advocacy. Highlights included two side events at the UN: one illustrating the importance of creating a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, and one focusing on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war and the voices of Hibakusha. Peace Boat’s other activities during the NPT Conference included Peace Boat’s Akira Kawasaki moderating the civil society presentations during the review conference, the organization of a reception at the UN Headquarters that gave Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors the opportunity to share their opinions with conference delegates, and participation in an ICAN press conference at the UN. A video message from the Hibakusha participating in Peace Boat’s 87th Global Voyage was also screened at various events throughout the Review Conference.
Peace Boat US also worked to help the Hibakusha Stories project bring atomic bomb survivors to New York City schools and to the Japan Society to share their perspectives and testimonies with young people and educators. Youth filled auditoriums and listened raptly to the stories and messages of the survivors, crowding around them afterward to express their appreciation and to learn more about nuclear issues. Survivor Setsuko Thurlow, 83, said that the strong desire of the youth to know more, and their thoughtful questions and responses, gave her great hope for the prospect of nuclear disarmament. Ms. Setsuko Thurlow has participated in the Global Voyage for a Nuclear Free World: Peace Boat Hibakusha Project, and was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her lifelong dedication to nuclear disarmament.
The NPT Review Conference concluded without being able to adopt an outcome document, however, the concerted efforts of civil society and engaged governments helped spur more than 100 states to endorse the “Humanitarian Pledge,” in which they commit to work for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. The wide and growing international support for this historic pledge sends a signal that a majority of the world’s governments are ready to move forward with the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Peace Boat will continue to work with the UN and other civil society organizations for a global ban on nuclear weapons that aging survivors such as Setsuko Thurlow can witness in their lifetimes.