‘Please Don’t Turn Your Eyes away from Me,’ A Nagasaki Survivor Implores the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference

7 May 2010

‘Please Don’t Turn Your Eyes away from Me,’ A Nagasaki Survivor Implores the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference

7 May 2010
Meetings Coverage
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

NPT Review Conference

9th Meeting (PM)

 ‘Please Don’t Turn Your Eyes away from Me,’ A Nagasaki Survivor Implores

the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference

He, with Hundreds of Other Non-Governmental Organization Representatives,

Urges States to Ensure Not Even One Nuclear Weapon Is Allowed to Exist on Earth

A binding nuclear weapons convention, losing the outdated “deterrent” rationale for arsenals and mandating the total elimination of nuclear bombs were among the strong calls that rang through the 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as non-governmental organizations addressed delegates at Headquarters today.

With more than 1,500 representatives from 121 non-governmental organizations accredited to this Review Conference, it was clear that collaboration and cooperation between Governments and civil society had resulted in great achievements on arms control and disarmament issues in the past and there were limitless possibilities for the future, said the director of Reaching Critical Will of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

It was painfully clear that nuclear weapons could not coexist with humans, said the chairperson of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, speaking on behalf of the 230,000 Japanese atomic bomb survivors.  He described his personal shock and the following decades of painful and lingering injuries and illnesses when, as a 16-year-old, he was bicycling 1.8 kilometres from the epicentre of the nuclear bomb that hit Nagasaki in 1945.

“I am not a guinea pig nor am I an exhibit, but those of you who are here today, please don’t turn your eyes away from me,” he said.  “Please look at me again.  I have survived miraculously.  We, the hibakusha, continue to live in pain.”  Urging States to unite and gather strength to create a world without nuclear weapons, he said “for humans to survive, not even one nuclear weapon should be allowed to exist on earth.  I cannot die in peace until I witness the last nuclear warhead eliminated from this world,” he concluded, to a standing ovation.

One way to eliminate nuclear bombs was to clarify these weapons’ roles, some speakers said.  The nuclear deterrence doctrine was “a potentially terminal delusion” that had to be challenged, as it was the final justification for never eliminating nuclear arsenals, said one speaker from the Disarmament and Security Centre, whohad flown aircraft with nuclear weapons for the British Government outside Leningrad.

All that prevented compliance with article VI of the NPT was a terrible misunderstanding associated with unquestioned acceptance about what nuclear weapons were supposed to do, he said.  The belief in nuclear deterrence was based on the “crazy” premise that nuclear war could be made less probable by deploying weapons that only increased that risk, he said.  Extremists would not only not be deterred by nuclear weapons, their game plan could include provoking nuclear retaliation, to turn moral outrage against the retaliator.

Eliminating nuclear weapons within this lifetime was indeed possible, other speakers asserted.  “The cold war fogs are clearing,” said a representative from the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy.  “We should recognize that where we reach in 2010 will give us the vantage point from which to survey the options and determine the optimum route.”

Disarmament was both a destination and a process, she said, suggesting that a multilateral convention that codified, in law and practice, the prohibition of acquiring nuclear weapons, and the safe elimination of arsenals, would be both.  As was the case with the Mine-Ban Treaty, nuclear bombs could be banned tomorrow, if the will was there, especially since there was a foundation already laid for a nuclear weapons convention, the chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative said.

Negotiations on such a convention should start immediately, said Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Jayantha Dhanapala, now president of the international organization Pugwash, making a personal statement as a civil society member, based on his 25-year association with the NPT.  Convention negotiations could even dovetail with parallel Continuous Arms Reduction Talks (CART) between the United States and the Russian Federation, bringing in other nuclear-weapon States, said a representative of Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy.

Reining in and accounting for nuclear weapons was another concern, he said.  Despite States reporting to the NPT Review Conferences arsenals and fissile material holdings, there was a stark lack of authoritative accounting of warhead and fissile material stockpiles, nuclear-weapon delivery systems and spending on nuclear forces.  States should seek a commitment to establish a United Nations-based accounting system, and pursue de-alerting, on an urgent basis to reduce the risks of accidental or mistaken launch, he said.

The Lawyers Committee representative cautioned that disarmament did not mean trading some arms control agreements or arsenal reductions for modernized nuclear forces and updated or new research and production facilities capable of building the nuclear threat anew.

Preserving life was the utmost priority and nuclear weapons were not the answer to the world’s problems, said representatives of the Ban All Nukes Generation.  They called on all nuclear-weapon-capable States to commit to the goal of Global Zero, and, at the Review Conference over the coming weeks, urged that negotiations begin on a framework of agreements banning nuclear weapons.

Other speakers focused on the urgent need to step up non-proliferation and disarmament efforts.  One pointed out that the NPT’s universality was imperative, while others urged the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and conclusion of negotiations for a fissile material cut-off treaty.

Some encouraged forward-looking developments, such as the growing number of nuclear-weapon-free zones.  While some speakers emphasized the importance of establishing those zones, particularly in the Middle East, others, including a representative of the Daisy Alliance, berated failed efforts, reminding delegates that ideas of a Middle East free of nuclear bombs and other weapons of mass destruction had existed for 35 years.

She recommended, among other things, that Israel take steps to bring its nuclear programme into line with NPT provisions, that agreement on no-first-use of weapons of mass destruction should be explored and that considerations should be discussed for freezing sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities with the eventual goal of establishing a fuel-cycle-free zone.

More could also be done to simply eliminate those weapons, some said.  One speaker from Religions for Peace said the religious community could do more to help eliminate the security-related excuses used to possess or acquire nuclear weapons — economic, climate, hunger and health crises among them.  Others called on nuclear Powers to uphold the 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons.

Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima, representing his people — the hibakusha — and nearly 4,000 city mayors who belonged to Mayors for Peace, said mayors and citizens alike had agreed on the dangers of nuclear weapons.  To remember the past was to commit to the future and decision makers must choose to begin negotiations immediately for creating a nuclear-weapon-free world.  Mayors for Peace believed that that goal could be reached by 2020, while the hibakusha were still alive.  “Time is of the essence,” he said.

Tomihisa Taue, Mayor of Nagasaki and Vice-President of Mayors for Peace, said 65 years after the atomic bombings, nuclear Powers still ignored appeals to abolish their weapons.  Survivors still suffered from terrible illnesses caused by the after-effects.  “We must always consider nuclear weapons from this viewpoint,” he said, and try to understand the depth of their feelings.  It was appropriate that he was the last speaker of the day, as his city had been the last to have been the target of a nuclear attack.

In the brief question-and-comment period that followed, Government speakers lauded the “dedicated” work of civil society and non-governmental organizations in the creation of various international instruments, saying their voices would be very much alive when the Conference resumed its work next week.  Brazil’s delegate observed that the organizations had been invaluable to every major cause that had been the subject of debate.  On questions of environment and trade, there were often visible demonstrations; however, with disarmament, he did not often see enough attention drawn to the lack of results.

Austria’s delegate asked youth representatives how they were teaming up with the older generations, who could benefit from their enthusiasm.

In response, a youth delegate said the youth delegation at the Conference was holding briefings, conducting interviews and, next week, would simulate deliberations for a nuclear weapons convention.  The older generation could help them by imparting their knowledge, she said.

Also speaking were representatives of Hudson Institute; Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea; Nuclear Information and Resource Service; Institute for Security Studies; and the group of non-governmental experts from countries belonging to the New Agenda Coalition ( Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden).

Representatives of Argentina and Japan also spoke.

The Review Conference will reconvene in plenary at a time and date to be announced.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.