Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Nuclear Issues: Solidarity and Commitment for Nuke Abolition

By Hirotsugu Terasaki*
Courtesy IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint

TOKYO (IDN) - On November 26 last year, a resolution calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons was successfully adopted at the Council of Delegates of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. This landmark development proved highly encouraging for civil society organizations working for the abolition of nuclear weapons. As one such organization, we (Soka Gakkai International) would also like to express our heartfelt respect and acclaim for the adopted resolution. It is widely recognized that the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has made important efforts toward the abolition of nuclear weapons since the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Statements made in April 2010 by Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates held in Hiroshima in November 2010 by Tadateru KonoƩ, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, were expressions of that enduring commitment.

Creating a Solidarity

Such engagement on the part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – historical leaders in the field of humanitarian relief – as well as civil society organizations whose prime focus is, for example, human rights and sustainable development, demonstrate the expanding global constituencies for a world without nuclear weapons.

Interstate negotiations face the inherent limitations that arise from the fact that governments are charged, first and foremost, with representing their perceived national interests. In an increasingly interdependent world, however, we are impelled to look beyond national interests, and bring shared, global interests to the fore.

At the same time, the continuing impacts of poverty, unemployment and disease require that we look at the realities of individuals’ lives within states and address the imperatives of "human security" – creating and maintaining the conditions in which people can fully enjoy their right to a life of dignity.

In parallel with the need to develop more diverse perspectives and maximize their respective advantages, there is a growing need to foster solidarity across the boundaries that have sometimes separated people working in different fields – such as nuclear abolition, humanitarian protection and relief, human rights, sustainable development and so on. Only by realizing how deeply linked these concerns are will it be possible to build the kind of global popular solidarity needed to make meaningful progress toward our respective policy objectives.

As a network of Buddhist lay believers, Soka Gakkai International (SGI) has continued to work for the abolition of nuclear weapons for more than 50 years. At the heart of Buddhist teachings is the concept of “dependent origination,” which holds that all things exist with and because of their relationships with other beings and phenomena. The real-life application of this concept takes the form of the simple injunction that we cannot, and must not, attempt to establish our own happiness at the expense of others' suffering.

This has led us to denounce nuclear weapons – which are explicitly designed to annihilate others with overwhelmingly destructive power – as an absolute evil. Because they give voice to clear moral imperatives rooted in the lived experience of people’s lives, faith-based organizations (FBOs) such as SGI can make a unique contribution to expanding the participatory horizons of the antinuclear movement.

A Threat to Democratic Governance

After the first nuclear weapons were used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the immensity of their destructive force led to their being considered "the ultimate weapon." As the Cold War continued, and both sides expanded their arsenals, the staggering and inhumane effects of nuclear weapons acted as constraints against their use in hostilities. The nuclear arms race, however, continued unabated as nuclear weapons came to be seen as having a principally deterrent value. They had become weapons whose use was unthinkable, but whose development and maintenance could deter attack and serve as a diplomatic bargaining chip.

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a distinct change in the role of nuclear weapons. With the proliferation of nuclear technology, there is a renewed possibility of their use – in particular by terrorist organizations against whom the logic of deterrence is meaningless. The logic of nuclear deterrence – which rests on the "balance of terror" – is incapable of deterring people possessed by a nihilistic disregard for human life. The indiscriminate nature of contemporary terrorism makes every person on Earth a potential target, and the realities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki stand as grim reminders of the devastating atrocity that could be visited on us.

It is crucial that awareness of these new realities be shared throughout civil society. Individuals must understand that, under this new reality, we are all potential targets and that our only path to safety lies in ensuring that no nuclear weapon is ever used anywhere. Continuing to share this awareness and foster international public opinion against nuclear weapons is critical to the future of democratic governance.

This is because nuclear weapons are fundamentally antithetical to the values – human rights and dignity, concern for the welfare of others, sustainability – that are recognized as essential to the human future. Confronting and correcting the deep structural distortions that arise from the attempt to maintain national security through the possession of nuclear weapons must be a key element of efforts to realize these values.

Based on this awareness, SGI launched the People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition campaign in 2007. As one element of this campaign, we are currently working with OPANAL – the intergovernmental agency that oversees implementation of the Treaty of Tlatelolco that established a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) in Latin America and the Caribbean – to hold an international conference on the future of NWFZs. It is hoped that this conference, scheduled for February as a follow up to a forum organized by the IAEA last November, will help lay the groundwork for holding a conference this year on creating a NWFZ in the Middle East.

In like manner, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has urged the holding of a nuclear abolition summit in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2015 with the purpose of marking the effective end of the nuclear era. Toward these and other related objectives, SGI is ready to work with concerned civil society organizations, governments and intergovernmental bodies.

We are also committed to helping the normative consciousness already shared among the world’s people against the atrocities of nuclear weapons use to find explicit and binding form. The first steps must be the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the early start of negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention banning these weapons forever. In that sense, we welcome and applaud the decision made by the Indonesian Parliament in December last year to authorize the ratification of the CTBT as this provides further impetus for the Treaty’s entry into force.

Transitioning to Human Security

The time for debating whether it will be possible to rid the world of nuclear weapons is long past. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and other prominent leaders in U.S. security affairs – all of whom have supported the doctrine of nuclear deterrence – are now on record with the view that, in order to prevent nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation, we must aim for a world free of nuclear weapons.

What can the world's people do, based on a clear recognition of the threat of nuclear weapons, to avert and resolve this crisis before it is too late? The time has come to give clear expression to the popular will for a world without nuclear weapons. Global civil society can and must play a central role giving voice and form to the desire for change.

SGI President Ikeda has written that, "In order to achieve real security in the twenty-first century we need to bring forth the powers of imagination that will enable us to directly and accurately apprehend evolving realities, to guide these changes toward the desired direction and to give birth to entirely new realities. To effect the transition from military-based national security to a new paradigm of human security requires a new creativity based on such powers of imagination."

In this context, the fact that the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has now announced a resolution clearly indicating that it is strengthening its efforts toward the abolition of nuclear weapons is a clear light of hope for the civil society organizations that are working tirelessly to give birth to a new reality.

*Hirotsugu Terasaki is Executive Director of the Office of Peace Affairs of Soka Gakkai International (SGI)