Background – The first nuclear weapons test in New Mexico in July 1945 followed radiation secretly released unto unsuspecting populations downwind and impacts through the mining process, marking the beginning of the nuclear age. In August 1945, the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki claimed more than 200,000 lives in just the first five months, leading to unimaginable horror and long-lasting impacts for those who survived.
The nuclear arms race that followed resulted in 2,000 nuclear tests on our land, in our oceans and underground, creating massive amounts of radioactive fallout. This, and uranium mining and various activities in the process of developing, testing and producing nuclear weapons, severely impacts the health, environment and rights of those who had to work at or live nearby.
Opportunity – This Forum comes just months before the first Meeting of State Parties of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which will be held in Vienna in March 2022. This landmark treaty became reality thanks to the dedicated efforts of those with first hand experience of the impacts of nuclear weapons. It was adopted at the United Nations in 2017, and entered into force in 2021, making nuclear weapons finally illegal. The treaty requires states parties to assist survivors of nuclear weapons use and testing, and to begin to clean up contaminated environments. The Meeting of States Parties will be an important opportunity to highlight the humanitarian impacts of nuclear use and testing and the situation of nuclear survivors, and this Forum aims to ensure that their first hand experiences are part of the conversation.
Significance – Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN highlighted the importance of this Forum and the participation of impacted communities in decision-making around nuclear weapons: “Nuclear weapons carry a great and unacceptable cost to humanity, even in the unlikely event they are not used in warfare. The treaty banning nuclear weapons would not exist without the voices of testing and production survivors, and it is vital we listen to them at this critical moment when a handful of states are attempting to push a new nuclear arms race against the demands of the world.”
Peace Boat’s Akira Kawasaki elaborated on the urgency of sharing and hearing survivor testimony: “Peace Boat has developed connections with nuclear survivors including the Pacific, North America and Asia during our global voyages throughout the past decades. It is an incredible opportunity for us to be able to hear their testimony directly online through this Forum. Listening to the voices of nuclear survivors should be the starting point for any discussion on the impacts of nuclear weapons.”
Participate – During the Forum, nuclear survivors and their supporters from over fifteen countries and regions around the world will come together virtually. Organized by Peace Boat in partnership with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the Forum will be open for anyone to join, held over two time blocks and available for viewing directly on Youtube.