Disarmament Education: The Role of Survivors and Youth

November 1st, 2016
Hiroshima Survivors Attend Event

The Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the NGO Peace Boat held a side event in New York on the role of atomic bomb survivors and their connections with youth, as part of disarmament education. The event was held on 21 October, 2016 during the 71st Session of the General Assembly First Committee and was moderated by Mr. Akira Kawasaki from Peace Boat, a member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

The opening statement was given by Ambassador Amatlain E. Kabua from the Marshall Islands, reminding everyone of the humanitarian consequences as a result of the nuclear tests by the United States on the Marshall Islands. Following her statement, attendees heard from Ms. Cora Weiss, President from the Hague Appeal for Peace, Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, Director from Hibakusha Stories, atomic bomb survivor from Hiroshima Mr. Takaaki Morikawa, participants from Global University*, and Mr. Peter Weiss, Co-president from the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA).

Cora Weiss called for the abolishment of nuclear weapons and a push for education to advocate for abolishment. Ms. Weiss explained that disarmament will only be successful if decisions are made by atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki and concerned and connected youth rising to decision-making positions. Focusing on the importance of disarmament, she noted that non-proliferation gives the idea that it is okay for some States to possess nuclear weapons, while other States are forbidden. Disarmament, however, holds that no State should have the right to nuclear weapons. Ms. Weiss called for a world without wars and a world without the threat of nuclear weapons.

Cora Weiss Calls for Nuclear Abolishment

Kathleen Sullivan also spoke about the importance of abolishing nuclear weapons. She challenged the attendees to think about what they love rather than what they fear.  Everything that we love is threatened by the nuclear weapons currently on high alert in the nuclear weapons possessing States.

Ms. Sullivan put this threat in perspective for the attendees by demonstrating with round metallic pellets (known as BBs). The BB demonstration allows the listeners to hear the sound of one small pellet dropping into a large tin can. The small ping of the one pellet represents all the firepower used during World War II including the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The sound of that small ping is then compared to the huge crashing sound of 2,225 pellets falling into the same tin which represents the potential impact from the magnitude of the world’s present-day nuclear arsenal. Dr. Sullivan called for nuclear disarmament for the sake of everything we love. Mr. Takaaki Morikawa described his family’s experience during the final days of World War II. He was a young boy when the atomic bombs were dropped and although he survived the bombing with his family, they were not spared from the consequences from radiation. After the bombing, his mother rushed into Hiroshima city, looking for loved ones. She ultimately died from health problems related to chronic fatigue caused by exposure to radiation. Mr. Morikawa continues to visit a doctor every six months for checkups, to ensure that his health is not affected by the after effects of radiation. At one point, the doctor recommended that his daughters also start seeing a doctor to ensure that they are not being affected by his exposure to the radiation. Radiation from a nuclear weapon not only affects the people in the area at that time, but can also cause health problems to the survivors’ succeeding generations. Mr. Morikawa reminded the attendees that there is no way to protect citizens from a nuclear attack and the only way to protect people from this is to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Peter Weiss

The next presentation was from Global University participants, who were traveling on the Peace Boat during an18 day-programme. The programme is designed to take focus of  nuclear policy away from strategic and military aspects and put emphasis on the humanitarian’s aspects and consequences. With a concentration on human suffering and other harmful consequences of nuclear weapons, the students examine and analyze success stories of various disarmament campaigns, the roles of international law and the UN System, and the importance of advocacy and education. The programme was held from October 4 to 21, 2016 and has brought together 30 students and young practitioners from around the world.

Mr. Peter Weiss finished the presentations by discussing the hope of a world without nuclear weapons.  He is greatly concerned by $1 trillion dollars budgeted to modernize nuclear weapons in the United States. According to Mr. Weiss, President Obama gave the world hope in his Prague speech and in his visit to Hiroshima, but now Mr. Weiss fears that he will not see a nuclear free world in his lifetime. He urged the attendees to pressure their Governments to change nuclear policy away from hair trigger alerts and towards nuclear disarmament.

*Global University is an intensive peace and sustainability studies programme for participants on board Peace Boat, combining advanced study of selected topics while on the ship with exposure programmes in various countries.

Drafted by Kathryn Smart