By Ramesh Jaura
An eminent Buddhist philosopher and nuclear disarmament advocate has tabled four critical initiatives to “contribute to the creation of a sustainable global society where all can live with dignity and a sense of security”. The initiatives cover four major areas: building support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW);multilateral negotiations for nuclear disarmament; climate change and disaster risk reduction (DRR); and education for children in crisis.
The initiatives are explicated in the 2020 Peace Proposal by Daisaku Ikeda, President of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist network. It is his 38th annual peace proposal titled ‘Toward Our Shared Future: Constructing an Era of Human Solidarity’. The original Japanese version was released on January 26 marking the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Soka Gakkai and the 45th anniversary of the founding of SGI.
Dr. Ikeda strongly pleads for entry into force of the TPNW in 2020, the year which marks the 75th anniversary of the inhumane atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “This would make 2020 the year that humankind finally began to leave the nuclear age behind,” he says.
Since being adopted by the UN General Assembly in July 2017, the TPNW has been signed by 80 states and ratified by 35. Fifteen more States must sign and ratify at an accelerated pace in order to reach the 50-ratification milestone required for entry into force of the Treaty.
As follow-up on enforcement of the Treaty, the SGI president proposes a People’s Forum for a World Without Nuclear Weapons centred on hibakusha and civil society in Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
A key theme, Dr. Ikeda says, should be the right to life—with international human rights law as a lens for bringing into focus the catastrophic nature of these weapons. The Forum, he suggests, should serve “as an opportunity for the mutual sharing of visions about what a world built through the prohibition of nuclear weapons would look like”.
According to the 2019 report of Norwegian People’s Aid, a partner of the International Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), 135 countries currently support the TPNW. The number of municipalities expressing support in nuclear-weapon and nuclear-dependent states is also increasing.
The second area in which Dr. Ikeda offers concrete proposals concerns policies for making substantive progress toward nuclear disarmament. He calls in particular for two agreements to be included in the final outcome statement of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference from April 27-May 22 at UN Headquarters in New York.
The first agreement relates to the start of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations and the second refers to deliberations on the convergence of new technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) and nuclear weapons.
The SGI president believes it is crucial to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the United States and Russia, and then to begin multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament.
The New START is scheduled to expire in February 2021, but negotiations are currently stalled. The loss of the New START framework, following the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, would create conditions in which, for the first time in half a century, there are no mutual restraints on the nuclear arsenals of either country. “This void invites the risk of a renewed nuclear arms race, warns Dr. Ikeda.
Furthermore, he adds, the accelerating development of miniaturized nuclear warheads and supersonic weapons generates the future prospect that the use of nuclear weapons will be considered in geographically limited conflicts. The five-year extension of the New START is therefore absolutely essential.
With this in view, Dr. Ikeda proposes, the NPT Review Conference should encourage a moratorium on the modernization of nuclear weapons. “States Parties should come to an understanding that multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations need to be initiated before the next NPT Review Conference in 2025.”
On the basis of a five-year extension of the New START, the U.S., Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China should commence negotiations on a new nuclear disarmament treaty, beginning with dialogues on verification regimes.
Drawing from the verification experience accumulated by the U.S. and Russia and the discourse at the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV) – which started five years ago with the participation of more than 25 countries with and without nuclear weapons – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (USA, Russia, Britain, France and China) should begin negotiations on the impediments to nuclear disarmament.
“The confidence building achieved through this dialogue can propel progress toward the start of substantive negotiations regarding numerical targets for the reduction of nuclear weapons.”
To create the conditions for multilateral nuclear disarmament, Dr. Ikeda proposes re-examining the concept of “common security” that had helped promote efforts to bring the Cold War to an end.
Common security—a response to the mass destruction that would ensue if nuclear deterrence failed—emerged from the thinking and policies of European leaders such as West German Chancellor Willy Brandt and his policy of reconciliation with the Eastern European states.
At the historic 1985 Geneva Summit between the U.S.-Soviet leaders, Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev endorsed U.S. President Ronald Reagan that “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”.
The Agenda for Disarmament issued by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in May 2018 called for “disarmament to save humanity”. In a speech the day after the report’s release, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu, who was involved in its preparation, addressed the relationship between security and disarmament as follows:
“Disarmament is a driving force for international peace and security, it is a useful tool for ensuring national security. . .Disarmament is not a utopian ideal, but a tangible pursuit to prevent conflict and mitigate its impact whenever and wherever it does occur.”
Dr. Ikeda adds: “Based on this kind of mutually beneficial win-win approach, now is the time to energetically promote the good-faith pursuit of nuclear disarmament to which Article VI of the NPT commits us.”
Article VI urges each of the Parties to the Treaty to undertake “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control”.
Dr. Ikeda wants the 2020 NPT Review Conference to seek consensus on the threat posed by cyberattacks on nuclear weapons-related systems and the introduction of AI into the operation of such systems. It would be advisable if the Conference develops “a deeper shared awareness of these threats” and begins deliberations on “the development of a prohibition regime”, says the SGI president
The need for such a regime is underlined by the fact that “cyberattacks. . . could affect not just the command and control centres of nuclear weapons, but a wide range of related systems including early warning, communications and delivery systems. In the worst-case scenario, a cyberattack on any one of these systems could lead to the launch or detonation of the nuclear weapons themselves”.
Climate change and disaster reduction
Climate change, says Dr Ikeda, is “a fundamental challenge, on which the fate of humankind hinges”. It threatens to render meaningless global efforts toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Praising the energy of youth climate activists, he states, “When young people’s will to transform reality merges with an indomitable optimism, the possibilities are limitless.”
With this in view, the SGI president proposes that UN Youth Climate Summits be held every year on the way to 2030 and calls for a Security Council Resolution mainstreaming youth participation in climate-related decision-making.
He adds: “The necessary responses to climate change are not limited to the reduction of greenhouse gases; there is also an urgent need to take steps to limit the damage wrought, for example, by extreme weather events. These were also the main themes discussed at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 25) held in Madrid last month (December 2019),” says the SGI president.
He proposes a UN conference focusing on climate change and disaster risk reduction be held in Japan. About 40 percent of the world’s population live within 100 kilometres of the coast, putting them at increased risk from climate-induced disasters. The vast majority of the Japanese population also live in coastal areas.
In light of this, the SGI president finds that “it would be valuable for municipalities in the coastal areas of Japan and other Asian countries, such as China and South Korea, to share experiences and best practices related to climate change and DRR, in this way generating synergies beneficial to Asia as a whole”.
This year, 2020, will mark the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Developed at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, it sets out clear guidelines for achieving gender equality. The declaration states:
“The advancement of women and the achievement of equality between women and men are a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and should not be seen in isolation as a women’s issue. They are the only way to build a sustainable, just and developed society.”
The spirit of gender equality is also crucial in the field of disaster risk reduction. Whether in the context of DRR or of extreme weather events resulting from climate change, measures to strengthen resilience must go beyond improving hard infrastructure. Dr. Ikeda therefore strongly feels that “we must not only strive to ensure that gender equality becomes a reality, but also prioritize those who tend to be overlooked and left behind in everyday life as we work to build community resilience”.
Education for children in crisis
The last of the four proposals of the SGI president relates to strengthening support for children and young people deprived of educational opportunities due to armed conflict or natural disasters. “It is my belief that protecting the human rights and future development of the next generation is the cornerstone of creating a sustainable global society,” he says.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary of entry into force this September. With 196 States Parties — a number greater than the membership of the UN — it is the most widely ratified universal human rights treaty.
The convention stipulates that governments have an obligation to ensure the right of all children to education, and indeed the proportion of primary-school-age children who are not in school decreased from around 20 percent in 1990 to less than 10 percent in 2019. Despite this progress, millions of children and young people living in conflict — and disaster-stricken countries still face serious educational disadvantages.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) emphasizes the role of schools in providing children with an important place to reclaim their daily lives. Spending time with friends at school offers children psychological succour to start healing from the traumatic experiences of growing up in conflict or disaster zones.
Against this backdrop, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is a new global fund established during the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016. Dr Ikeda calls for strengthening of the financial foundation of the UNICEF-hosted Education Cannot Wait global fund.
The SGI is a community-based Buddhist network promoting peace, culture and education with 12 million members in 192 countries and territories. Every year since 1983, the SGI president has issued a peace proposal offering a Buddhist perspective and solutions to global problems on January 26, to commemorate the founding of the SGI.