In February I visited Japan, starting from the city of Hiroshima. Arriving in this city full of history – my first impression was that it is a beautiful and lively city fully recovered from the devastation that took place 75 years ago.
As the United Nations turns 75 this year, we also commemorate the tragic anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was such an honour to be in the resilient City of Hiroshima to meet young people and policymakers to highlight #Youth4Peace and #Youth4Disarmament.
My stay in Hiroshima started with a visit to the very hypocenter of the bomb’s explosion. It was so striking to stand at this spot and look back to the tragic loss of so many lives. Close to the hypocenter, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Peace Museum stand strong as a silent reminder of the tenacity of the Japanese people. What Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered should always remind current and future generations of the value of a peaceful, nuclear-free world.
In Japanese, there is a word for the surviving victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki called “Hibakusha”, literally translated as “explosion-affected people”. I was humbled to meet a Hibakusha, Ms Emiko Okada. Emiko Okada was 8 years old on 6th August 1945, when the A-bomb hit Hiroshima. Since then her life was never the same. Her story of dealing with the social, medical and psychological impacts of the bombing should encourage us to keep working towards a nuclear-free world. To learn more about Emiko’s story and the stories of other Hibakusha, visit ant-hiroshima.org.
Later in the day, I was enthusiastically interviewed by two brilliant junior writers of Chugoku Shimbun. They posed tough questions on the importance of young people taking part in civic and political action and #Youth4Peace. I also had the pleasure of meeting with Mr Kazumi Matsui, the Mayor of Hiroshima to learn about the work he is doing including as the chair of Mayors for Peace. When a Mayor signs, it means they support the commencement of negotiations towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. Did you know that, whenever there is nuclear testing in the world, the Mayor of Hiroshima sends a letter of protest? I sincerely appreciated the efforts the Mayor, the city and its people have made for advancing towards a nuclear clean world.
I also visited the Sanyo Joshi High School in Okayama. There I met with a group of active young female students who are solving marine pollution issues in their local community by cleaning the ocean-bed, raising awareness and conducting research. In 2018 they won the Japan SDGs Award, which was created in 2017 at the Japanese Government’s initiative to promote the SDGs in Japan. These young students with excellent abilities set a good example for all young people as to how to take the lead in advancing the Global Goals. I am also proud to see so much girl power!
On the third day, I travelled to Tokyo and met with Ms Sayaka Sasaki, Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Japan has integrated Education for Sustainable Development in the National Curriculum. We discussed how to strengthen these efforts.
I also met Ms. Eriko Imai, Parliamentary Vice-Minister of the Cabinet Office on Gender Equality. We had a discussion on the importance of 2020 in the context of Beijing+25, generation equality and mobilization of young people. We also highlighted Japan’s efforts in the empowerment of women and girls.
It was wonderful to participate in a Youth Dialogue on the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations, with young people from various sectors in Japan. We talked about the role of young people towards a society in which no one is left behind. I pinpointed that, to achieve a sustainable future, we count on two things: young people as the torchbearers and the global goals as the roadmap. Following that, I had an inspiring visit to Shibuya Senior High School, where I learnt about students’ activism through Hiroshima Peace Education Club, High School G20 Convention, LGBTQ Seminar they organized. Their passion was impressive, and I believe politically engaged youth like them are any country’s biggest asset!
To wrap up my visit to Japan, I was pleased to meet with the State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Keisuke Suzuki. Celebrating the UN75 and decade of action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we count on Japan’s leadership in multilateralism and accelerated action for development and peace.