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2021 Peace Proposal (Part 6 of 13 Segments)

Value Creation

in a Time of Crisis

Daisaku Ikeda, President Soka Gakkai International

January 26, 2021

As illustrated by this anecdote, the Buddhist perspective on human rights urges us not to extinguish or suppress our feelings of cherishing ourselves above all else. On the contrary, by extending and opening the love we feel for ourselves to love for others, we can rebraid the tapestry of our lives, restoring the ways in which we connect to others and to society at large.

The Lotus Sutra is an unfolding narrative of the dramatic revitalization of human life. As one person after another comes into contact with this notion that all without exception inherently possess the most sublime state of being, and as they steadily awaken to their own precious and irreplaceable dignity, they begin to recognize the weight and value of the dignity of others. Thus, they mutually deepen their determination to build a world in which the dignity of both self and others shines brightly.

In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni dispels the boundaries dividing people in society, stressing that the most sublime state of being resides equally within all, including women—who had long been subjected to harsh discrimination—as well as individuals who had committed evil deeds. Clearly declaring the dignity of those who have been the target of various forms of oppression and discrimination, the Lotus Sutra is interlaced with the lively exchange of voices in mutual celebration and affirmation of the dignified essence of our being. Through this rich drama of lives inspiring and becoming inspired, it gives concrete form to the principle of the inherent dignity of all humankind.

Based on the Lotus Sutra’s teaching of human dignity, committed to building a society which opposes any and all forms of discrimination and to ensuring that no one is denied their dignity, the SGI has consistently worked to promote human rights education as called for by the United Nations.

In support of the UN Decade for Human Rights Education that began in 1995, the SGI organized the exhibition “Toward a Century of Humanity: An Overview of Human Rights in Today’s World,” which traveled to forty cities in eight countries. We have also actively engaged in the promotion of the World Programme for Human Rights Education since its launch in 2005. In addition, in 2011 the SGI worked in collaboration with other organizations to support the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, a landmark instrument in setting universal standards for human rights education. Since then, we have engaged in activities such as co-organizing the exhibition “Transforming Lives: The Power of Human Rights Education” [35] in cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and in co-creating the Human Rights Education: Open Web Resource website. [36]

During the UN Human Rights Council session held last September, the SGI, on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learning, delivered a joint statement in reference to the Plan of Action for the fourth phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education, which focuses on youth and began last January:

[The Plan of Action] sets great possibilities for human rights education and young people. While COVID-19 adds challenges to the implementation of the Plan, there cannot be a “break” for human rights education which is a key condition for human rights to be a reality. [37]

This year will mark ten years since the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training, which describes human rights education as being integral to building an inclusive society. Just as a circle cannot be considered complete unless all of its constituent arcs are drawn, so long as the promise of universal respect for human rights is undermined by social disparities and distinctions—so long as people continue to be excluded and marginalized—it will remain an empty slogan, never becoming a tangible reality.

Human rights education can propel the formation of robust solidarity among people who, sharing an awareness of the importance of human dignity, are engaged in the work of reexamining our ways of living and thus transforming society. In so doing, we can give clear and palpable form to those arcs of the full circle of human rights and dignity that have been lost and obscured by the structural nature of oppression.

The SGI has consistently carried out activities in support of human rights education with a view to completing the circle of an inclusive society, working together with all those with whom we share this world. Strengthening efforts to stop the spread of malicious misinformation and discrimination and to dispel the dark clouds of fear and anxiety seeded by the COVID-19 crisis, we must now rise to the challenge of anchoring a vibrant culture of human rights on our shared determination that no one’s dignity ever be denied.

International guidelines for combating infectious diseases

Next, I would like to make specific proposals in three main issue areas toward the construction of a global society of peace and humane values.

My first set of proposals relates to strengthening people-centered global governance and establishing global guidelines for combating infectious diseases.

Last year, the World Food Programme (WFP) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. For decades, WFP has been helping people suffering from hunger by providing food assistance and also contributing to improving the conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas. Last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic generated a surge in food insecurity, WFP intensified its efforts to provide food assistance based on the conviction that “until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.”


The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in recognition of these initiatives and contributions. It is also worth mentioning that WFP has played another important role during the crisis: When the pandemic caused many flights to be canceled, greatly disrupting the global transport system, WFP leveraged its logistics capacity and expertise to secure chartered vessels and flights to deliver critical medical supplies as well as health and humanitarian personnel.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also provided logistical support to deliver COVID-19 related medical supplies such as masks, gowns and oxygen concentrators as well as diagnostic test kits. UNICEF has long collaborated with logistics industries in different regions, supporting vaccination programs to protect children from infectious diseases. From last October, in preparation for what it expects to be “one of the largest mass undertakings in human history,”


UNICEF began laying the groundwork for COVID-19 vaccination in various countries by purchasing and delivering syringes and other necessary equipment. It also began making transportation and distribution plans so that vaccines can be delivered as soon as they become available. UNICEF has experience in transporting vaccines in temperature-controlled environments and has promoted solar-powered refrigeration in areas where it is difficult to secure electrical power. Its expertise and know-how in managing vaccination programs will play a crucial role in addressing the crisis.

When I think about the significance of the initiatives led by WFP and UNICEF, I am strongly reminded of the importance of the global safety net that has been woven together in overlapping layers through the activities of different agencies of the United Nations. The UN has a number of organizations tasked with addressing the needs of specific populations, such as UN Women and UNHCR. Through the initiatives and activities of these entities, the UN has brought a sustained focus on those who would otherwise be left behind and has opened the way for the provision of international support.

In my 2019 peace proposal, I highlighted the importance of fostering people-centered multilateralism as a means of protecting those who face the most serious threats and challenges. It is increasingly urgent that we make this approach foundational to how humanity lives in the twenty-first century.

Last year, the UN launched the UN75 initiative, a global consultation to commemorate its seventy fifth anniversary. This is an ambitious attempt to listen to the voices of the world’s people through surveys and dialogue. In addition to the more than 1,000 dialogues conducted in person, online and through social media, more than one million people in all UN member and observer states across the globe responded to an online survey. The results make it clear that the overwhelming majority support greater global cooperation. Respondents of all age groups and nationalities expressed the view that this is vital in dealing with today’s challenges and that the pandemic has increased the need for international solidarity. [40]

The voices of participants from across the globe were published in the survey report. As one notes:

The virus has taken away jobs, interactions, education and peace. . . Students who have worked so hard to get an education might not get a job, people who don’t have access to technology can’t move forward in a society that now depends heavily on it, workers who are supporting their families have lost their jobs and it doesn’t seem like life will be back to normal anytime soon, so people are stressed, anxious and depressed because they fear the future.


As the above comment suggests, this sense of urgency for global cooperation arises not from some idealized vision of international society but from people’s lived realities as they confront adversity in various forms. And this is being felt by large numbers of people across different countries.

Reading of the hopes and expectations for the UN expressed by the world’s people, I am reminded of the words of former UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, who passed away at the age of one hundred in March last year. Born in Lima, Peru, he took part in the first UN General Assembly in 1946 as a member of the Peruvian delegation. He spent most of his career as an ambassador and senior UN official before being appointed Secretary-General, serving two consecutive terms over ten years starting in 1982.

We met for the first time in Tokyo in August 1982, soon after he took office as Secretary-General, and on a number of occasions after that. I still vividly recall how each time I touched upon the importance of civil society support for the UN, Mr. Pérez de Cuéllar, a man known for his sober and honest manner, permitted himself a smile as he expressed his deep commitment to the UN’s mission.

He played a crucial role in resolving a number of conflicts as Secretary-General. Even in the final days of his tenure, he continued negotiations to bring an end to the civil war in El Salvador, culminating in the historic peace agreement reached on New Year’s Eve, his last day in office. This achievement still shines as an important milestone in UN history.

He once described the UN’s essential role as follows:

The Charter and the working of the world Organization do not promise a problem-free world. What they promise is a rational and peaceful way of solving problems. . . To the great dangers of the proliferation of nuclear and conventional weapons, political disputes, violations of human rights, the prevalence of poverty and threats to the environment have been added new sources of conflict. There is a need for the world’s wealth of political intelligence and imagination—and compassion—to be employed in coping with these dangers. It can be done through constant and systematic effort only within the United Nations. [42]

In another address, he expressed his deep commitment as UN chief to actions that would benefit all of humankind, saying that the crisis the UN was then facing could provide creative opportunities for renewal and reform. [43] To meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the climate emergency, I believe we should adopt the approach called for by the late Secretary-General and make the present crisis an opportunity for strengthening people-centered multilateralism through the UN system. Likewise, the current UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has affirmed that overcoming today’s fragilities and challenges requires better global governance, [44] something we must continue to promote.

From this perspective, I would like to propose the holding of a high-level meeting at the UN to address COVID-19 as a means to further strengthen networking and collaboration among the world’s governments. With a view to the possibility of new infectious diseases emerging in the future, I would further propose that international guidelines governing pandemic response be adopted at such a meeting.

Last month, a special session of the UN General Assembly focusing on the current pandemic was held at UN Headquarters in New York where General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir addressed the gathering, expressing the sentiment shared by millions worldwide:

Right now, we are all dreaming of the day this pandemic is over. The day we can take a deep breath of fresh air without fear. The day we can shake the hands of our colleagues, embrace our families, and laugh with our friends.


Toward that end, he called for strengthened international cooperation led by the UN. Following a moment of silence in memory of all those who have lost their lives, heads of state and government addressed the session through pre-recorded video statements, and online panel discussions were held with WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. I believe the high-level meeting I am calling for could be convened as a follow-up to develop international guidelines that would serve as the basis for a coordinated COVID-19 response. These guidelines should be sufficiently robust to also defend against future outbreaks of infectious disease.

We have seen how, in 2001, the UN General Assembly Special Session issued a Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS with a list of categories for action and a timeline for achievement, and how this provided a powerful impetus to each country’s response to that epidemic.

It is also worth looking at the international approach to disasters of a different nature. In 2015, four years after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 was adopted at the third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai, a city that had been severely affected. This framework included guiding principles and priorities for action in disaster risk reduction, clearly underlining that the aim is to protect not only people’s lives but also their livelihoods. It further included specific lessons learned from disasters including the Tohoku earthquake, such as the importance of enhancing resilience—the capacity of societies to recover 19 from severe shocks. Further, as a result of the Sendai Framework setting specific targets toward 2030, including substantially reducing the number of victims of disaster worldwide and containing damage to critical infrastructure such as healthcare and educational facilities, countries around the world have begun to share priority areas and best practices in this field.

I believe that, building on the achievement of the Sendai Framework and based on lessons learned and experiences acquired, international guidelines for combating the current pandemic must be established as a matter of great urgency.

Although the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include bringing an end to certain communicable diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, there is no explicit mention of the word “pandemic.” Bearing in mind the possibility that new infectious diseases will emerge, the international guidelines I am proposing should outline the priority actions for pandemic response to be implemented by 2030. As guidelines linked to the SDGs, they should be integrated in such a way as to reinforce those goals.

Alongside a meeting to draw up such global guidelines, I would like to propose the holding of a “beyond COVID-19” youth summit, a convening of young people to discuss the kind of world they would like to see in the aftermath of this crisis. Two years ago, the UN Youth Climate Summit took place at UN Headquarters in New York. It provided a platform and opportunity for young leaders from around the globe to engage with UN leadership, sharing their solutions on climate issues so that their concerns could better be reflected in policy-making processes.

A “beyond COVID-19” summit could utilize online platforms, thus enabling the participation of many more young people from diverse backgrounds, such as those struggling in poverty, those living in conflict areas and those compelled to live as refugees. Such a summit would provide youth with the opportunity to freely exchange their views and hopes with UN officers and national leaders.

Many participants in the UN75 dialogues mentioned above voiced the need for UN reform that would strengthen collaboration with civil society and expand the involvement of women and youth in UN decision making. Of the suggestions detailed in the UN75 Report, I would especially like to highlight the idea of establishing a UN youth council with the role of communicating to the UN leadership ideas and proposals developed from the perspective of young people.

In my 2006 proposal on UN reform, I shared my strong belief in the importance of promoting young people’s active engagement with the UN. Referencing Archimedes, I stated that when youth have “a place to stand,” they can leverage the potential of the UN. And in my 2009 peace proposal, I called for the creation of an office of global visioning within the UN Secretariat to help identify the future direction of the UN and bring focus to that purpose. It is crucial that the UN not only react to immediate challenges but also better reflect the voices and perspectives of women and youth in its efforts to develop future-oriented action strategies.

To that end, a UN youth council would regularize and sustain the kind of youth engagement described above. A youth summit dedicated to responding to the COVID-19 crisis, following the precedent set by the Youth Climate Summit, would build momentum for the creation of such a youth council. I sincerely believe that the active participation of youth in this way would bring fresh ideas and vitality to the organization, strengthening UN-centered global governance for the benefit of the world’s peoples.

TPNW—A turning point in human history

The second issue of concern regarding which I would like to offer specific proposals is the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons.

On January 22, 2021, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), long sought for by civil society, entered into force. The treaty comprehensively bans nuclear weapons, prohibiting not only their development and testing but also their production, stockpiling and use or threat of use. At present, the treaty has been signed by eighty-six countries and ratified by fifty-two.

Following the precedents set by the Biological Weapons Convention and Chemical Weapons Convention, which ban those weapons of mass destruction, the entry into force of the TPNW marks the start of an era in which the continued existence of nuclear weapons on Earth has been stipulated as unacceptable by a legally binding instrument.

Last October, Setsuko Thurlow, a hibakusha who has worked with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) to advocate for the treaty’s entry into force, shared her thoughts on hearing that the TPNW had met the conditions for doing so. As one who has also committed my life to realizing a world without nuclear weapons, I was deeply moved by her words:

This truly marks the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons! When I learned that we reached our 50th ratification, I was not able to stand. I remained in my chair and put my head in my hands and I cried tears of joy. . . I have a tremendous sense of accomplishment and fulfilment, a sense of satisfaction and gratitude. I know other survivors share these emotions—whether we are survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki; or test survivors from South Pacific island nations, Kazakhstan, Australia and Algeria; or survivors from uranium mining in Canada, the United States or the Congo. [46]

As Ms. Thurlow noted, people throughout the world have suffered from the development and testing of nuclear weapons over the course of the nuclear age that has persisted for more than seventy-five years. As stressed in the TPNW, the very existence of nuclear weapons poses a grave danger to the world; and the catastrophic consequences that would result from their use and any subsequent nuclear exchange would be truly imponderable. The irreversible damage done to the planet would extend beyond the dimension of mass destruction: in an instant, everything would return to nothingness, all would cease to exist—each precious life, all community and social activity, the entirety of human history and civilization—everything would be cruelly stripped of meaning. Something capable of producing such tragedy can only be described as an absolute evil.

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda, issued his declaration calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons in 1957 at a time when every part of the world was coming within range of a nuclear-weapon strike as a result of the arms race. Seeking to confront and overcome the underlying thinking that justifies the possession of nuclear weapons, he stated that his goal was to “expose and rip out the claws that lie hidden in the very depths of such weapons.”


He went beyond declaring the use of nuclear weapons unacceptable under any circumstance. By using deliberately provocative language, he wished to emphasize that without exposing the true nature of absolute evil lurking within nuclear weapons possession, it would be impossible to protect the right of the world’s people to live.

As the preamble of the TPNW states, a sense of urgency to ensure “the security of all humanity” lies at the foundation of this treaty. Establishing a norm comprehensively banning nuclear weapons under international law, the treaty’s primary purpose lies in protecting the right to live of all the people with whom we share this planet—regardless of whether the states in which they live are nuclear-weapon states, nuclear-dependent states or non-nuclear-weapon states—and in ensuring the survival of generations to come.

Support for the treaty has steadily continued to grow: even after the TPNW reached its fiftieth ratification required for entry into force, sixteen more states expressed their intention to ratify at last year’s session of the UN General Assembly’s Disarmament and International Security Committee (First Committee). [48]

Attention now focuses on the first meeting of States Parties of the TPNW, which the treaty requires be held within one year of its entry into force. Here, the next step will be to muster broad-based support for “the security of all humanity” and greatly expand the number of states signing and ratifying. Furthermore, since all states, including those not yet States Parties, are welcome to attend this meeting, a major focus will be how to involve as many nuclear-weapon and nuclear-dependent states as possible in the deliberations. The challenge here is to build the kind of robust solidarity that will bring the era of nuclear weapons to a close.

The UN75 Report I referred to earlier also clearly reflects growing support among the global public for the creation of this kind of solidarity. It cites a ten-point list of priorities for the future, including a global push to support entry into force of the TPNW as well as a ban on lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs) such as robotic weapons.


In addition, according to a survey of millennials in sixteen countries and territories commissioned by the International Committee of the Red Cross, 84 percent of all respondents agreed that the use of nuclear weapons in war or conflict is “never acceptable.” Notably, there was also overwhelming support for this statement among millennials living in nuclear-weapon states.


As the only country in the world to have experienced a nuclear attack in wartime, Japan should pave the way for the nuclear-dependent states by announcing its intention to participate in the first meeting of States Parties of the TPNW and to proactively take part in discussions. On this basis, Japan should aim for ratification at an early date. In light of its history and the underlying spirit of the treaty—to protect the right to live of all the people with whom we share this planet and to ensure the survival of future generations—it can certainly send a powerful message to the world. In this way, Japan can make an important contribution to ensuring that the talks reach a constructive outcome.

The TPNW stipulates that in addition to reviewing and discussing its ratification and implementation status, the meeting of States Parties can also address “any other matters pursuant to and consistent with the provisions of this Treaty.” [51] Based on this, I would like to propose that a forum for discussing the relationship between nuclear weapons and the SDGs be held during the first meeting of States Parties.

The issue of nuclear weapons is not only central to the attainment of world peace; as noted in the treaty’s preamble, it has grave implications for many areas of concern including human rights and humanitarian issues, the environment and development, the global economy and food security, health and gender equality. Since each of these represents a crucial aspect of the SDGs, the theme of nuclear weapons and the SDGs can be positioned as an issue concerning all states and serve as the impetus to engage as many nuclear-weapon and nuclear-dependent states as possible in the discussions of the States Parties.

The prolonged severity of Cold War tensions following World War II caused the threat posed by nuclear weapons to become entrenched, so much so that even today, thirty years after the Cold War ended, there is a strong tendency to view it as an unchanging “given.” Even recognizing that national security is a high priority for states, is it really the case that this can only be realized through continued reliance on nuclear weapons? I believe that debating this question in light of the importance of achieving each of the SDGs would represent a significant opportunity for both the nuclear-weapon and nuclear dependent states to reexamine their current stances.

This is all the more crucial as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to overstretch national healthcare systems and undermine economies across the world, with forecasts showing that recovery may take years. I strongly believe we have reached a critical point at which states must seriously reconsider the merit of continuing to pour vast sums into military budgets in pursuit of security through the possession of nuclear weapons.

In Greek mythology, we find the story of King Midas, who came to possess the ability to turn everything he touched into gold. Once this wish of his had been granted, however, he discovered that even water and food, the basic necessities for human survival, were turned to gold at his touch, rendering them useless. In the end, he chose to relinquish his “gift.” At present, in the face of not only climate change but the COVID-19 crisis, there is an urgent need for all countries to thoroughly reconsider the implications of nuclear weapons for the peoples of the world. This, I am confident, will be brought into sharp relief through discussions on the relationship between nuclear weapons and the SDGs, which will in turn be indispensable in our efforts to create a world in which we would want to live.

More than anything else, it is the united voice of civil society that will serve as a major force for generating greater global support for the TPNW. In my proposal last year, in addition to calling for civil society observer participation in the first meeting of States Parties of the TPNW, I proposed the holding of a people’s forum for a world without nuclear weapons to follow up on the first meeting, bringing together the world’s hibakusha, municipalities that support the TPNW and representatives of civil society. These two proposals would serve to amplify the voices of civil society and help position the TPNW as a pillar of twenty-first-century disarmament efforts as well as a focal point for popular energy to transform human history.

Now that the TPNW has entered into force, will it be possible for the countries of the world to come together to eliminate the planetary threat posed by nuclear weapons?

As we stand at this crossroads in history, I would like to consider the example of Professor Joseph Rotblat (1908–2005), who long served as the president of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs and whose life story may offer us a guide for achieving the paradigm shift to which we aspire.

Of the many scientists engaged in the Manhattan Project, the US-led endeavor to develop the atomic bomb during World War II, Prof. Rotblat was the only one to quit before its completion. Several years before joining the project, he had moved to Britain from his native Poland in order to pursue his research, but was separated from his wife when Nazi Germany invaded their homeland. Asked to participate in the Manhattan Project as part of the British mission, he left for the United States torn by a conflict between his conscience and the desire to deter the Nazis from developing and using a nuclear weapon.

At the Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico, his office was adjacent to that of Edward Teller (1908–2003), who would later be known as the father of the hydrogen bomb. One day, the military general in charge of the Manhattan Project told him that the real objective of building the atomic bomb was to subdue the Soviet Union, rather than to outpace the Nazis’ development efforts and thereby demoralize them.


In a dialogue we conducted many years later, Prof. Rotblat recalled his deep shock at this revelation: “I began to feel that I was at Los Alamos for the wrong reason. I felt as if the soil beneath my feet was beginning to crumble.” [53] He submitted a request to be relieved from participation in this top secret project and, despite various forms of pressure to rescind his decision, he returned to Britain by himself. Tragically, it transpired that his beloved wife had been killed in the Holocaust.

When he heard about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in a news broadcast on August 6, 1945, he determined to devote the rest of his life to ensuring that nuclear weapons would never again be used. In 1946, he organized the British Atomic Scientists Association in order to campaign against any use of nuclear weapons. To promote public awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons, he helped sponsor a mobile exhibition in train carriages which traveled throughout the British Isles, Europe and the Middle East. He switched his field of study to the therapeutic use of radiation, as he wanted to see his research used in ways that would help save lives. His earlier work on the radioactive element Cobalt-60 continues to contribute to the treatment of malignant tumors to this day.

In 1954, a hydrogen bomb test was conducted at Bikini Atoll, exposing local inhabitants and the crew members of the Japanese fishing boat


Fukuryu Maru

(Lucky Dragon No. 5) to radioactive fallout. This occasioned an encounter between Prof. Rotblat and the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970). Prof. Rotblat went on to sign the 1955 Russell-Einstein Manifesto, and in 1957, he cofounded the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs in which he continued to play a pivotal role until his passing in 2005. His was a life devoted to the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons.

His views on the reality of nuclear deterrence, voiced when he and the Pugwash Conferences jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995, are still relevant today:

Nuclear weapons are kept as a hedge against some unspecified dangers. This policy is simply an inertial continuation from the Cold War era. . . As for the assertion that nuclear weapons prevent wars, how many more wars are needed to refute this argument? [54]

In our dialogue, Prof. Rotblat and I discussed how nuclear weapons were first developed in the name of counteracting Nazi Germany and how their possession and competitive development was justified with ever-changing reasons and strategic theories. We reached the conclusion that nuclear weapons do not continue to exist out of necessity, but rather, their existence has necessitated a search for arguments to justify their existence. [55]

So long as states continue to possess nuclear weapons, citing the threat of some “unspecified dangers,” the actual threat these weapons pose to our planet will persist into the indefinite future. In contrast, the TPNW, which aims to eliminate “the risks posed by the continued existence of nuclear weapons,”


establishes a path for countries to move forward together toward the eradication of that threat.

In their efforts to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons, the Pugwash Conferences saw their first successes with the entry into force of the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963, the year after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Although the treaty prohibited nuclear explosions in the atmosphere, outer space and underwater, it did not prohibit underground nuclear explosions. This in turn led to the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans all nuclear tests, three decades later, in 1996.

Although the CTBT has yet to enter into force, it has been signed by 184 states and, through the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), has a verification regime to ensure that no nuclear explosion anywhere on the globe goes undetected. This regime helps forestall the creation of the kind of “unspecified dangers” that Prof. Rotblat warned against. Further, mobilizing the data collection resources of its network of monitoring stations, which spans the entire globe, the CTBTO helps protect the lives of people everywhere, enabling, for example, early disaster warning and the detection of nuclear power plant accidents.

Similarly, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) launched an initiative in March 2020 to use nuclear-derived technology to help more than 120 countries with COVID-19 detection tests. [57] The IAEA has a track record of assisting countries to expand access to cancer treatment and rapid detection tests in the fight against epidemics such as Ebola and Zika. Regarding this initiative, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi declared: “When people turn to the IAEA for assistance in times of crisis, the IAEA has not failed them and will not fail them.” [58] These activities echo Prof. Rotblat’s lifelong commitment to saving lives through his research and activism.

If a deterrent force is needed in the world today, it is certainly not that of nuclear weapons. Rather, it is the power of joint action and solidarity transcending national borders, brought to bear against the intertwined crises of climate change and COVID-19 and related economic impacts.

The international community’s attitude toward biological and chemical weapons changed dramatically after the entry into force of the treaties banning these weapons. States initiated the process of destroying them: more than 90 percent of the world’s declared chemical weapon stockpiles have so far been eliminated. [59] A similar change regarding nuclear weapons might not immediately occur among nuclear-weapon states and nuclear-dependent states, but it is not as if the process would be starting from scratch.

Three international conferences on the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons were held between 2013 and 2014. With each iteration, the number of participating governments increased, including those of nuclear-dependent states, with the United States and the United Kingdom among the 158 states that attended the third conference. [60]

Among the conclusions drawn from those conferences, I think that the following three points are particularly important:

The impact of a nuclear-weapon detonation would not be constrained by national borders and would cause devastating long-term effects on a global scale.

1. It is unlikely that any state or international body could adequately address the immediate humanitarian emergency caused by a nuclear-weapon detonation.

2. The indirect effects of a nuclear-weapon detonation would be most concentrated on the impoverished and vulnerable segments of society.

Though the threats differ in their nature, the impacts of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic resemble those of nuclear weapons in each of the above ways. The devastating impact that COVID-19 has had upon the world should bring home to all states, including the nuclear-dependent and nuclear-weapon states, the critical importance of eliminating the threat of these weapons, which are capable of wreaking havoc on a truly unimaginable scale.

Removing this grave danger that has persisted from the Cold War era is at the heart of both the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which entered into force in 1970, and the TPNW, which just entered into force this month. The NPT calls on its signatories to make every effort to avert the danger of a nuclear war [61] and the devastation it would visit upon all humankind. The two treaties complement each other, providing a dual basis for setting into motion global efforts to put nuclear dependent security policies behind us.

Here I would like to make two proposals to the NPT Review Conference scheduled for August this year: that there be a discussion on the true meaning of security in light of crises such as climate change and the pandemic; and that the final document include a pledge of non-use of nuclear weapons and a pledge to freeze all nuclear-weapon development in the lead-up to the 2025 Review Conference.

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.


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.

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