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122 Nations Approve Global Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons

Ushering in a New Age of Peace

Delegates give a standing ovation after a vote by the conference to adopt a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, Friday, July 7, 2017 at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)


NEW YORK, July 7—In a move seven decades in the making, the United Nations on July 7 passed the international Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted by 122 countries at the U.N. Headquarters in New York City.

The treaty will prohibit the possession, development, testing, use and threat of use of nuclear arms, while creating obligations to remediate any environmental damage caused by the use or testing of nuclear weapons, as well as provide victims with medical care and rehabilitation.

“I have been waiting for this day for seven decades, and I am overjoyed that it has finally arrived,” said Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima survivor who witnessed the adoption of the nuclear ban treaty during the U.N. session. “This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.”

The treaty comes 72 years after the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and 60 years after second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s landmark declaration, on Sept. 8, 1957, calling for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

On the same day, the SGI endorsed a statement issued by the group Faith Communities Concerned about the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons in support of the historic treaty.

It was a poignant moment not only for U.N. delegates but also for civil society organizations, such as the SGI, that played vital roles in achieving the outcome.

During negotiations, SGI representatives put forth proposals that were reflected in the 10-page treaty—including reference to international human rights law, in particular, the right to life; strengthening the reference to disarmament education; and highlighting the role of women in promoting peace and security. In addition, SGI-USA Director of Public Affairs Danny Hall helped facilitate a series of educational meetings to advocate the treaty before ambassadors and staff from the permanent U.N. missions of various countries.

“If we are to put the era of nuclear terror behind us, we must struggle against the real ‘enemy,’ ” President Ikeda wrote. “That enemy is not nuclear weapons per se, nor is it the states that possess or develop them. The real enemy that we must confront is the ways of thinking that justify nuclear weapons; the readiness to annihilate others when they are seen as a threat or as a hindrance to the realization of our objectives”

In a recent Japan Times op-ed piece on nuclear disarmament, SGI President Ikeda cited John F. Kennedy’s 1961 address to the U.N. General Assembly: “We far prefer world law, in the age of self-determination, to world war, in the age of mass extermination.” He continued: “The efforts of many states and representatives of civil society to engage in constructive debate on the contours of this treaty can be seen as a forerunner to the kind of ‘world law’ envisaged by Kennedy” (see June 5 Japan Times).

Before entering into international law, however, the treaty must be ratified by at least 50 U.N. member states.

The next challenge, therefore, will be to raise awareness of the significance of the treaty while ensuring broad and solid public support.

While there is much work to be done, Mr. Hall emphasized the impact of the treaty. “It powerfully changes the normative moral and legal environment in which nuclear disarmament negotiations will occur moving forward,” he said.

President Ikeda, who has written tirelessly about nuclear abolition, said in his September 2009 proposal to the global community that turning the tide of public opinion requires each person to examine their own motivations and actions. “If we are to put the era of nuclear terror behind us, we must struggle against the real ‘enemy,’ ” President Ikeda wrote. “That enemy is not nuclear weapons per se, nor is it the states that possess or develop them. The real enemy that we must confront is the ways of thinking that justify nuclear weapons; the readiness to annihilate others when they are seen as a threat or as a hindrance to the realization of our objectives”