17 September 2012 — On 21 August 2012, a delegation of 20 Nagasaki Youth Peace Messengers from Nagasaki high-schools visited the Conference on Disarmament Secretariat and Conference Support Branch of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) in Geneva and handed over a petition with 155,002 signatures calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Mr. Jarmo Sareva, Director of the Branch who received the petitions emphasized that the visit of young students to the United Nations, where States pursue negotiations aimed at preventing humanity from once again being a witness to the atomic bombing tragedy, bridged generations in their shared efforts against the threats from nuclear weapons.
This initiative has roots back to the year 2000. At that time, high-school students from Nagasaki started an initiative to deliver an annual petition calling for a world free of nuclear weapons. Over the past 12 years, they have submitted more than 845,000 signatures to the United Nations. During the past year, the students collected signatures not only in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but also in other cities throughout Japan including those affected by the 2011 tsunami and the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Moreover, this year, the initiative has become international as high school students from Brazil joined in the petition drive. The Nagasaki Peace Messengers were accompanied by Ms. Watanabe who is a survivor (known as Hibakusha) of the Hiroshima atomic bombing of 1945.
The petition ceremony is an annual event. Those attending at this year’s ceremony were particularly moved by listening to individual stories of the young people who have either relatives – survivors from the atomic bombing or have lost their parents during the recent tsunami. The strong spirit and determination to devote their lives to the struggle for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons was impressive. Thanking the students for their efforts, Mr. Sareva supported the idea to internationalize this initiative.
The Nagasaki Peace Messengers also attended a plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament(CD), and were warmly welcomed on behalf of all delegations by the President of the Conference, Ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann of Germany. “Conveying accurately the realities of nuclear weapons to the future generations is immensely important” – Ambassador Hoffman said in remarks at a meeting with Ambassador Mari Amano the Head of the Delegation of Japan to the CD. The latter thanked the young people for their voluntary action and expressed a wish that this “passion for action” towards a world without nuclear weapons would spread to other countries of the world.