TOKYO, Japan, May 8 2023 (IPS) – The Ukraine crisis, which in addition to bringing devastation to the people of that country has had severe impacts on a global scale—even giving rise to the specter of nuclear weapons use—has entered its second year. Against this backdrop and amid urgent calls for its resolution, the G7 Summit of leading industrial nations will be held in Hiroshima, Japan, from May 19 to 21.
In February of this year, an emergency special session of the UN General Assembly was held, where a resolution calling for the early realization of peace in Ukraine was adopted. Among the operative paragraphs of the resolution was one that urged the “immediate cessation of the attacks on the critical infrastructure of Ukraine and any deliberate attacks on civilian objects, including those that are residences, schools and hospitals.”
With that as a first essential step, all concerned parties must come together to create a space for deliberations toward a complete cessation of hostilities. Here I would like to propose that, as negotiations advance through the cooperative efforts of the concerned countries, they be joined by representatives of civil society, such as the physicians and educators who work in schools and hospitals to protect and nurture people’s lives and futures, participating as observers.
In March, the leaders of Russia and China issued a joint statement following their summit meeting which reads in part: “The two sides call for stopping all moves that lead to tensions and the protraction of fighting to prevent the crisis from getting worse or even out of control.” This is aligned with the resolution adopted by the emergency special session of the UN General Assembly.
The G7 Hiroshima Summit should develop concrete plans for negotiations that will lead to a cessation of hostilities.
I also urge the G7 to commit at the Hiroshima Summit to taking the lead in discussions on pledges of No First Use of nuclear weapons. The current crisis is without parallel in the length of time that the threat of use and the fear of actual use of nuclear weapons have persisted without cease.
Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the hibakusha of those cities, in coordination with the larger civil society movement, have stressed the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons; non-nuclear-weapon states have engaged in continuous diplomatic efforts; and the states possessing nuclear weapons have exercised self-restraint. As a result, the world has somehow managed to maintain a seventy-seven-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons.
If international public opinion and the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons were to fail to provide their braking function, nuclear deterrence policy will compel humankind to stand on a precipitous ledge, never knowing when it might give way.
Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, I have written two public statements. In both, I referenced the joint statement by the five nuclear-weapon states (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China) made in January 2022, which reiterated the principle that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” and called for it to serve as the basis for reducing the risk of nuclear weapons use.
Also of important note is the declaration issued by the G20 group in Indonesia last November, which stated: “The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.”
The G20 member countries include nuclear-weapon states as well as nuclear-dependent states. It is deeply significant that these countries have officially expressed their shared recognition that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is “inadmissible”—the animating spirit of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
It is vital that this message be communicated powerfully to the world from Hiroshima.
As the G7 leaders revisit the actual consequences of a nuclear weapon detonation and the bitter lessons of the nuclear era, I urge that they initiate earnest deliberations on making pledges of No First Use so that their shared recognition of the inadmissible nature of nuclear weapons can find expression in changed policies.
If agreement could be reached on the principle of No First Use, which was at one point included in drafts of the final statement for last year’s NPT Review Conference, this would establish the basis on which states could together transform the challenging security environments in which they find themselves. I believe it is vital to make the shift to a “common security” paradigm.
Commitment to policies of No First Use is indeed a “prescription for hope.” It can serve as the axle connecting the twin wheels of the NPT and TPNW, speeding realization of a world free from nuclear weapons.
For our part, the SGI has continued to work with the world’s hibakusha, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)—which arose from its parent body IPPNW—and other organizations first for the adoption and now the universalization of the TPNW. As members of civil society, we are committed to promoting the prompt adoption of policies of No First Use of nuclear weapons, generating momentum to transform our age.
By Daisaku Ikeda
The author is Peace builder and Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda, who is President of the Soka Gakkai International