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Ushering in an Era of Peace and Disarmament

By Ramesh Jaura

BERLIN | TOKYO (IDN) – "Amid the continued escalation of global challenges, crises that were previously unthinkable are now becoming reality throughout the world." This is the backdrop to a wide-ranging proposal eminent Buddhist philosopher, educator, author, and nuclear disarmament advocate Dr. Daisaku Ikeda has put forward. [2019-03-03]

'Toward a New Era of Peace and Disarmament: A People-Centered Approach' by Dr. Ikeda, President of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), is a treasure of wisdom and knowledge approaching issues through an interdisciplinary lens, taking into consideration the interconnected nature of themes.

Among critical issues that constitute the backdrop to Dr. Ikeda's proposal are the alarming climate change, 68.5 million people forcibly displaced worldwide due to conflict and other reasons, and trade disputes impacting the global economy. Besides, the United Nations has been calling for urgent action on disarmament.

SGI, the world's largest Buddhist lay organization with approximately 12 million practitioners in 192 countries and territories, launched a second People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition in 2018, to build on the work of the first Decade, which concluded in 2017 with the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) by the UN General Assembly.

The second Decade, according to the SGI President, is focused on expanding global support for the Treaty and paving the way toward a world free from nuclear weapons, by continuing to work with like-minded partners to this end.

In fact, among highlights of the 2019 Peace Proposal is the need to accelerate progress toward the abolition of nuclear weapons, encourage youth engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and expand  the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) network of universities.

The TPNW, adopted by a vote of 122 States at the UN General Assembly on July 7, 2017, and opened for signature on September 20, 2017, will enter into force 90 days after the 50th instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession has been deposited with the UN Secretary-General. Hitherto 70 countries have signed and 21 ratified the Treaty.

Dr. Ikeda  urges the creation of a group of like-minded states to deepen the debate and promote ratification – Friends of the TPNW, modelled on Friends of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has been lying in limbo since 1996.

The SGI President calls on Japan to take the lead in this initiative, stating: "Since Japan has declared its desire to serve as a bridge between the nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states, it makes sense that it should take the initiative in creating a venue for such dialogue."

He also highlights the new Cities Appeal of the 2017 Nobel Peace Laureate International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and its related #ICANSave social media initiative.

With an eye on the 2020 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), scheduled to hold its third session from April 29 to May 10, 2019 at the UN Headquarters in New York, Dr. Ikeda calls for steps such as the removal of nuclear warheads from high-alert status.

Going one step further, he suggests that the final document of the 2020 NPT Review Conference "include a recommendation to establish a UN open working group to discuss concrete steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines, marking a clear directional shift toward nuclear disarmament".

Dr. Ikeda argues that nuclear weapons have not been used in war since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and the nuclear-weapon states, NATO member states and others have begun to recognize their declining military utility.

"Even during the Cold War, it was clear that there could be no winner in a nuclear war," he adds. "Given this growing awareness of their lack of military utility, what reason can remain to justify nuclear-dependent security doctrines?"

However, against the backdrop that the previous review conference in 2015 did not achieve consensus due to longstanding disagreements between nuclear and non-nuclear States, Dr. Ikeda further proposes that a fourth special session of the UN General Assembly be devoted to disarmament (SSOD-IV) be held in 2021.

The SGI President also stresses the dangers of emerging Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) and proposes the convening of a conference to negotiate a treaty banning these weapons, often referred to as "killer robots".

Applauding the May 2018 Disarmament Agenda of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Dr. Ikeda advocates a shift from seeing security solely in terms of state or military security toward a human focus, a people-centered multilateralism based on the effort to build a world in which all people can experience meaningful security.

He notes how the complexity and scale of global challenges can make youth feel that positive change is impossible. He calls on young people to resist feelings of resignation and "meet the severe challenges of our age as agents of proactive and contagious change".

Dr. Ikeda urges youth involvement in the SDGs as crucial to their achievement. He calls for expansion of the UNAI network of universities committed to supporting the SDGs through research and teaching programs, and proposes the convening of a world conference of such universities in 2020, the 75th anniversary of the founding of the UN.

The UN’s Youth2030 strategy calls on UN entities to amplify and reinforce the voices of young people at major summits such as the 75th anniversary events and to establish regular engagement between young people and the Secretary-General, argues the SGI President.  

"In this context, a world conference of universities in support of the SDGs would bring together educators and students from around the globe, accelerating momentum toward their achievement. It could also provide the opportunity for a dialogue forum with the Secretary-General," he adds.

He also welcomes the designation of youth as the focus of the fourth phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education.

Another emphasis of the peace proposal is on SDGs concerned with water resource management. Dr. Ikeda hopes that Japan will apply its experience to the resolution of water-related problems in Northeast Asia and regional confidence building, and that Japan, China and South Korea will work together to offer support to countries in the Middle East and Africa where there is growing demand for water reuse and desalination.

The SGI President's 2019 Peace Proposal is the 19th since the beginning of the 21st century. He has been publishing peace proposals since 1983 on January 26 every year to commemorate the founding of the organisation. Each peace proposal explores the interrelation between core Buddhist concepts and the diverse challenges global society faces in the effort to realize peace and human security. He has also made proposals touching on issues such as education reform, the environment, the United Nations and nuclear abolition. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 March 2019]

Photo: Dr. Daisaku Ikeda. Credit: Seikyo Shimbun.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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