For a World Free of Nuclear Weapons
A look at SGI President Ikeda’s peace proposals and the SGI’s nuclear disarmament efforts over the past decade.
Since 1983, SGI President Ikeda has issued an annual peace proposal on Jan. 26, SGI Day, introducing core Buddhist concepts as a framework to address and offer possible solutions to pressing global challenges, such as nuclear disarmament. The annual proposals are read by leading thinkers and U.N. officials around the globe.
In light of the U.N.’s recent adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (see July 21, 2017, World Tribune, p. 10), the following highlights SGI President Ikeda’sproposals and the SGI’s efforts to abolish nuclear weapons over the past decade. This article was adapted from the July 10 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.
I. Expanding the solidarity of civil society
“The danger posed by nuclear weapons has cast deep shadows over the international community . . . [t]his can be attributed in part to a lack of political will, but also significant is the absence of a strong groundswell of world opinion calling for disarmament . . . the public must raise their voices.”1 (SGI President Ikeda’s 2006 Peace Proposal)
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In his 2006 peace proposal, President Ikeda suggested the establishment of “A People’s Decade of Action” aimed at abolishing nuclear weapons. Taking its cue from this proposal, the SGI in 2007 launched the People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition, an initiative to rouse “public opinion and help create a global grass-roots network of people dedicated to abolishing nuclear weapons.” As
expressions of its commitment, the SGI created anti-nuclear weapons exhibitions “From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace: Transforming the Human Spirit” and “Everything You Treasure— For a World Free From Nuclear Weapons,” as well as the film Testimonies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Women Speak Out for Peace.
The SGI has also collaborated with the International Committee for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and in 2014 participated in the “Nuclear Zero” campaign. Wanting to see nuclear weapons states fulfill their disarmament obligations, the Soka Gakkai youth in Japan collected 5 million signatures for a petition calling for a world free of nuclear weapons.
Then in the same year, 2014, on the heels of two international conferences that considered the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, the SGI organized an interfaith symposium for the abolition of nuclear weapons in Washington, D.C. (see May 16, 2014, World Tribune, pp. 1, 7). Representatives from 14 faith groups issued a joint statement calling for “complete prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.”
As a member of the religious community, the SGI has actively worked in issuing joint declarations at U.N.-organized conferences. For this most recent Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the SGI participated in negotiations as a member of civil society (see July 21, 2017, World Tribune, p. 10). SGI representatives proposed language for the 10-page treaty, and emphasized the great importance of upholding the dignity of life and the need to strengthen disarmament education.
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II. Centering the debate on the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons
“No matter how much effort people may have expended trying to live happy lives and no matter how long the span of time over which their culture and history may have developed, all of this would be rendered instantly meaningless. It is in this inexpressible absurdity that the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons is to be found.”2 (2015 Peace Proposal)
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In his annual peace proposals, President Ikeda has brought attention to the inhumanity of nuclear weapons from various perspectives. In his 2009 proposal for the abolition of nuclear arms, he referenced second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s 1957 “Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons,” in which Mr. Toda firmly condemns the inhumanity of nuclear weapons. President Ikeda emphasized that the annihilation of one’s enemies for self-serving objectives represents absolute evil that must be overcome. This gave rise to the exhibition “Everything You Treasure–For a World Free From Nuclear Weapons,” which sheds light on nuclear disarmament from 12 perspectives: humanitarian, environmental, medical, economic, human rights, energy, scientific, political, spiritual, gender, generational and security.
Around this same time, awareness of the inhumanity of nuclear weapons began to grow. The final document of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Conference of 2010 expresses its deep concern for “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from the use of nuclear weapons.”
Thereafter, international conferences that considered the humanitarian impacts of the use of nuclear weapons were held in Norway (2013), Mexico (2014) and Austria (2014). SGI representatives attended each conference, contributing to deliberations by conveying their perspectives.
At the third conference, the Austrian government announced its pledge to call for legal restrictions on nuclear weapons. As a groundswell of public opinion seeking the prohibition of nuclear arms surged that following year in 2015, over 120 countries supported the Austrian Pledge on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons submitted to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Conference.
The preamble of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons declares that the signatories to the treaty are “deeply concerned about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons.” In addition, the text of the treaty repeatedly expresses concerns for humanitarian considerations and makes the document an important basis for banning nuclear weapons.
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III. Collaboration with the United Nations
“What is required now is to take this living, breathing awareness—the determination that the tragedy wrought by nuclear weapons must never be repeated and that humanity and nuclear weapons cannot coexist—and give it concrete form as a binding legal agreement expressing the shared conscience of humankind.3 (2012 Peace Proposal)
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The aim of the SGI’s “People’s Decade of Action” is to increase the number of people who oppose the existence of nuclear weapons and to actualize a total prohibition of nuclear arms by joining forces with various international efforts for nuclear abolition.
In his 2009 Nuclear Disarmament Proposal, President Ikeda suggested that international norms, which would serve as the basis for a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, be established by 2015. With this in mind, he emphasized in his 2011 peace proposal that efforts to start the process for establishing a nuclear prohibition treaty should be central to the “Peoples Decade of Action.”
Then in his peace proposal for 2015, which marked 70 years since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the SGI president called on states to actively engage in negotiations on a treaty for banning nuclear weapons.
Toward this end, he proposed the establishment of U.N. working groups that could serve as platforms for treaty negotiations while also involving civil society.
Although the NPT Review Conference at the U.N. General Assembly ended that year without member states adopting its final document, the General Assembly did accept a measure for the establishment of a working group that would discuss legal measures to steadily advance nuclear disarmament.
In response to this measure, working groups on nuclear disarmament met in February, May and August of 2016. SGI representatives participated in each session. It is from these sessions that the working groups adopted a recommendation that negotiations begin for the establishment of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. In December, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution to hold a conference to negotiate the establishment of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
The SGI, as a member of civil society, has consistently participated in the working groups and the processes of the U.N. General Assembly. The United Nations registered the working documents submitted by these groups as official U.N. documents. Meanwhile, the SGI has also joined members of the religious community in issuing joint declarations at the General Assembly, and has also backed the start of negotiations for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
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IV. Sending waves of change from ground zero
“I am convinced that the effect of organizing such a meeting at the sites of the actual atomic bombings would help renew the pledge of all participants— starting with the attending heads of state and government—to achieve a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons and would solidify and make irreversible momentum toward that goal.”4 (2012 Peace Proposal)
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President Ikeda suggested in his 2010 peace proposal the idea of organizing a nuclear abolition summit in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2015, 70 years after the bombings, to be attended by leaders of nuclear weapons-possessing-states to discuss nuclear disarmament. This came from the conviction that when people meet the hibakusha (victims of the atomic bombings) firsthand and learn of their suffering, they would be moved to solidify and make irreversible momentum toward achieving a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons.
This proposal by President Ikeda rippled throughout the international community, and, in 2014, the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of the Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Initiative (NPDI) was held in Hiroshima. In 2016, the meeting of the Group of Seven (seven countries with the most advanced economies) was held in Hiroshima, leading to the adoption of the Hiroshima Declaration, which emphasized that “nuclear weapons [must] never be used again.” Later that same year, then-U.S. President Barack Obama made a visit to the site of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima—the first by a sitting U.S. president.
Furthermore, in his 2014 proposal, President Ikeda suggested that the world’s youth gather in the cities affected by the atomic bombs for a youth summit. Spearheading this idea, the SGI youth in August 2015, together with multiple international civil society groups, organized the International Youth Summit for Nuclear Abolition in Hiroshima. Thirty youth active in peace work from 23 countries participated in this event, and the Youth Pledge that was announced on the final day of the summit called for concrete action to be taken to actualize a world without nuclear weapons. The pledge was handed to the U.N. Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi. Following this youth summit, in May 2016 the Amplify Youth Network was established to bring together young people from throughout the world to work toward nuclear abolition (see http://amplifyyouth.org).
1. 2006 Peace Proposal “A New Era of the People: Forging a Global Network of Robust Individuals,”
2. 2015 Peace Proposal “A Shared Pledge for a More Humane Future: To Eliminate Misery from the Earth,” www.daisakuikeda.org.
3. 2012 Peace Proposal “Human Security and Sustainability: Sharing Reverence for the Dignity of Life,” www.daisakuikeda.org.