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2021 Peace Proposal (Part 10 of 13 Segments)

Value Creation in a Time of Crisis

Daisaku Ikeda, PresidentSoka Gakkai International

January 26, 2021

The review Conference, originally scheduled for 2020, was in fact postponed due to the pandemic. When the Review Conference is held, I urge participants to reflect on the way that the world’s people have been craving real safety and security over the course of the last year, and seriously consider whether the continued possession and development of nuclear weapons as “a hedge against some unspecified dangers” is consistent with the spirit of the NPT.

In 1958, against the backdrop of the escalating Cold War nuclear arms race, the United States had a secret project to detonate a thermonuclear bomb on the surface of the Moon. Its purpose was to produce an intense flash of light that could be clearly seen from Earth, thereby demonstrating to the Soviet Union the superiority of US military might. Fortunately, the project was soon aborted, and the Moon was spared. [62] This plan to use even the Moon for nuclear intimidation was underway at the very same time when, back on Earth, the US and the Soviet Union were working together to develop and deliver a vaccine to contain the polio epidemic.

Today, at a time when the world is expected to require several years or more to fully recover from the damage caused by COVID-19, governments should apply this lesson from history and earnestly question the value of continuing to modernize their nuclear arsenals.

At the 2021 NPT Review Conference in August, I strongly urge that, on the basis of pledges of nonuse of nuclear weapons and a freeze on nuclear-weapon development, states initiate good-faith multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament at the earliest possible date, thus complying with their disarmament obligations under Article VI of the NPT. Such actions will ensure substantive progress is made prior to the next Review Conference in 2025.

The TPNW allows a nuclear-weapon state to become a State Party by agreeing to submit a plan for the elimination of its nuclear-weapon program. [63] Such participation by nuclear-dependent and nuclear weapon states in the TPNW would be facilitated through the above-outlined steps taken under the NPT regime—embarking on multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament undergirded by pledges of non-use and a freeze on nuclear-weapon development. I call for efforts to link the operation of these two treaties in ways that will put us on the path to ending the nuclear age.

Rebuilding life in a post-COVID world

The third issue area where I would like to offer proposals pertains to the reconstruction of economies and lives disrupted by COVID-19. Time and again, the global economy has been hit by severe recessions, triggered by such factors as currency instability, fluctuations in energy prices and financial crises. The impact of the current pandemic, however, far exceeds the damage done by these past events. According to the World Bank, the global economy is experiencing its worst contraction since the end of World War II. [64] Businesses in most sectors have registered sharp declines in earnings, resulting in mass layoffs and significant drops in household income.

The depth of the current economic crisis is such that the International Labour Organization (ILO) warns that 1.6 billion people—nearly half the global workforce—“have suffered massive damage to their capacity to earn a living” as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. [65] In response, some governments have taken emergency measures to provide income support, including cash transfers, in an effort to soften the blow to their populations. At the most recent G20 Labour and Employment Ministers’ Meeting held in September last year, participants expressed the view that the pandemic “has reinforced the need for strong social protection systems to support all workers and their families.” [66]

A social protection system is a portfolio of interventions that provides a lifetime of social assistance to individuals facing financial challenges due to ill health, loss of work or other unforeseen events. The right to social security is stipulated in numerous human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [67] In response to the global financial crisis that erupted in 2008, impacting large numbers of people in the areas of employment, healthcare and education, the UN in 2009 launched the Social Protection Floor (SPF) Initiative to shore up the foundations of people’s lives.

In my 2013 peace proposal, I strongly endorsed this initiative, stressing that the employment conditions facing youth at the time were especially severe. It has been my abiding belief that a society that deprives young people of hope cannot expect to achieve sustainability or build a culture of human rights. I therefore proposed incorporating into the SDGs, which were then being deliberated at the UN, the target of a social protection floor in every country to ensure that those suffering from extreme poverty would be able to regain a sense of dignity.

While equivalent content was incorporated into the SDGs, [68] the magnitude of the COVID-19 economic shock, which is even greater than the impact of the 2008–09 financial crisis, has thrown many millions of people, including those who previously enjoyed stable lives, into financial devastation. This has driven home the urgency of strengthening access to social protection systems, a goal also supported by the thirty-seven member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). [69]

The OECD’s policy statement, “Supporting livelihoods during the COVID-19 crisis: Closing the gaps in safety nets,” issued in May last year, points out that this protracted hardship is forcing workers to fall back on their savings, putting their current and future well-being at risk. It further states:

The unprecedented scale of the crisis means that this is not only a short-term challenge, but it will require sustained policy efforts over the coming months and, possibly, years. Careful consideration of how support programmes can be made as effective and as sustainable as possible is needed. [70]

In 1948, the forerunner of the OECD was established to oversee the Marshall Plan, a US program developed to provide aid to European countries ravaged by World War II. The OECD is now referred to as the world’s largest think tank, bringing together experts from across the globe to enhance international standards, including through processes of national policy peer review. [71] Recently, as it places greater emphasis on ensuring the implementation of its policy proposals, the group has started to position itself as a “think and do tank.” [72]

With this in mind, I hope that OECD members will take the lead in efforts to realize all SDG targets related to ensuring universal social protection measures. I also hope that they will work together to establish and implement global policy standards for rebuilding economies and livelihoods devastated by the COVID-19 crisis. One direction this could take is the development of new industries and the creation of job opportunities through rapid transition to a green economy, scaling back military spending and allocating the resources saved to strengthening social protection systems.

Further, OECD members have a significant role to play in enacting ambitious policies that enhance social resilience. This could include building regional sustainability by way of responding to the climate crisis, promoting disaster risk reduction and ecological conservation, supporting healthcare systems and improving the employment environment for caregivers, including those involved in nursing care. My rationale for citing these overlapping policy areas is that we are living in an era in which we need to adopt a comprehensive and simultaneous “multi-hazard approach” to threats and challenges, with a clear understanding of the systemic nature of risk, as advocated by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. [73]

The UN Biodiversity Summit held last September confirmed that, should the current deterioration of the global climate and ecosystem persist, new forms of contagious disease can be expected to emerge. [74] By taking a multi-hazard approach to address spirals of negative causes and consequences, we can transform these into their positive equivalents. For example, efforts to mitigate climate change can enhance prevention measures against emerging infectious diseases, which will in turn boost disaster resilience. Similarly, strengthening disaster prevention and risk reduction measures in tandem with ecological conservation will help meet the challenges posed by climate change. These are but a few examples of the much-needed efforts we must make to transform a confluence of challenges into a cascade of positive changes.

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