Security: The Priorities of Civil Society
58th Annual DPI/NGO Conference
United Nations, New York, 7-9 September
by Hazuki YASUHARA
A few months ago, in May this year, I participated the Review Conference
of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty
as an NGO observer and was sitting in
this very room listening to the NGO presentations. That was the first time for me to participate
in the Review Conference and it was an
amazing opportunity for me as I met so
many young people who are serious, enthusiastic,
willing and also aware of their mission
and ability to work for peace. Their stance
against nuclear weapons is very clear.
They are calling for the abolition
of the nuclear weapons, because these
weapons are inhumane and illegal, and
would create unthinkable devastation.
The focus of their concern is on each
one of our lives, not national interests
or power struggles.
Together with many claims and appeals
from the other NGO representatives and
experts including Hibakushas, the survivors
of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, the youth activists indicated
clear steps toward the abolition of nuclear
weapon that are achievable and required
under Article Vi of the Treaty.
This strong youth presence and their articulate
and passionate message was very encouraging
for me as I believe in the achievability
of nuclear disarmament.
For this to happen, the awareness
among youth is crucial because we are
the ones who will inherit the immediate
future. And our motivation for disarmament can come from the fact that
we are going to be the last generation
to be able to inherit the experience directly
from these Hibakushas, not to repeat the
atrocity ever again.
Yet, the process of the Review Conference was very frustrating.
What I witnessed during those four weeks
was no action on the part of the nuclear
As the conference proceeded, I
started seeing two clearly different motivations
or perspectives in dealing with nuclear
disarmament. One was looking at the issue
only as political, as a power struggle
between nations, where national interests
of only one or a few countries outweigh
the human interest of the rest of the
world. The other perspective addressed
disarmament as a moral, ethical and humanitarian
issue, clearly recognizing the connection
between disarmament and individual lives
rather than accruing political power in
the interest of one nation state.
When I was sitting in this room hearing the NGO presentations and
looking at the people around me, this
clear separation between the two perspectives
struck me as a core concern not only about
nuclear disarmament but also concerning
the many issues that confront us in our
world today. The reality is that the current
political system is driven by pursuing
national interests and power for the few
over the greater need of human security
for the many. The voices of people need
to be heard and to be reflected in the
conduct of governments -- but they are
not being properly received and decisions
of these governments are made somewhere
far from people's needs. There is simply not enough attention being
paid to the impact on actual people’s
lives. This realization of what is really
happening at the table of international
dialogue made me feel extremely angry
and also sad. I remember myself sitting
here in this room, screaming silently
for change and justice to be made for
us, and for the future of humanity.
A few months later, I was involved in a two week educational voyage
which my organization Peace Boat and Green
Foundation, a Korean environmental NGO,
jointly organized to visit Pusan and Inchon
in South Korea, Dandong and Shanghai in
China and Okinawa and Nagasaki in Japan,
taking 600 hundred passengers roughly
half Korean and half Japanese participants.
This East Asian landmark voyage was the
first joint project between Japanese and
Korean civil society in this year that
marks 60th commemoration of the end of
WWII – an end which is regarded
as defeat among Japanese people and as
liberation among Korean people. This year
also marks 60 years after atomic bombs
were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Through this voyage, I have witnessed
that actual communication between people
can promote understanding if not as far
as reconciliation, at least face to face
interactions lessen tensions that have
been build up in people’s minds
through media and government.
We had a chance to visit the House of Sharing in South Korea where
women who were forced to serve as sex
slaves by the Japanese Army during WWII,
live together and work for recognition
and reparations. After attending their once weekly demonstration
at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul we gathered
to hear one of the women's testimonies.
We also visited the Nanjin Massacre Museum,
where we could see half buried bones of
some of the tens of thousands of people
killed indiscriminately by the Japanese
army also during WWII. These visits made
me realize the reality of war and aggression
that reached so far that no human dignity
was respected and no legitimacy and justification
can be made for these extreme acts of
One participant expressed her feeling
that by visiting these places and hearing
the life stories of those who suffered,
the history became a reality, which she
could never understand by reading a book.
Now, she said, that those experiences
had became a part of herself.
Hazuki YASUHARA is
giving her speech during the
UN-DPI 58th Annual Conference at the United
on September 8, 2005.
Also on this voyage, we had a special nuclear disarmament program
for 7 youth activists from 7 nuclear weapon
states, which I helped coordinate. Participants
of this program went through a lot of
learning, encounters, experiences and
sharing of their ideas, both on an emotional
and intellectual level. Not only did we
have an intense exchange of our ideas
about nuclear disarmament, but we also
shared time with both Korean and Japanese
Hibakusha, listening to their testimonies.
By bearing witness to the reality of what
nuclear weapons brought and can bring
to people, we deepened our motivation
to achieve nuclear disarmament within
our own lifetimes.
What I can say from this experience and through my work at Peace
Boat is that when one can feel and recognize
an issue as their own, their understanding
of the whole situation changes dramatically.
By listening to the story from others
and building face to face relationships,
we can experience for ourselves what someone
has gone through or we can imagine the
pain and struggles of others. In this
process, suddenly, things happening far
away or in the past become real. From
then on, I believe that they will see
the faces of those who suffered and are
still suffering. Behind the statistics, behind the policies and decisions, we
can imagine the struggle and think of
what is really needed to bring about change.
Individual connection and compassion built
in such a way can nurture a truly humanitarian
I believe that the future of human kind depends on how we approach
and deal with problems from a humanitarian
point of view. National interests and
power struggles often fail to recognize
and take care of actual human needs. National
interests for development and security
often bring huge sacrifice to people’s
lives so mush so that appropriate care
and protection of civilians are hardly
recognized. If we say that we are providing
the best of what we can do, how can we
let millions of refugees in Africa starve
to death in extreme poverty when we have
plenty of food and water here? How can
we let people die from disease when effective
medical care exists? How can we let people
suffer from neglect and abuse of their
human rights when the practical rule of
law is applicable and can be exercised?
How can we still expose millions of people
to the threats and fear of nuclear weapons
when nuclear weapon states are obliged
to disarm? It is clear from what we all
see that injustice exists -- injustice
which is driven by a recognition of national
interests over millions of civilian lives.
We are now standing at the point where
this injustice must be corrected and the
concept of human centered security must
I believe this is what we have to bring to this stage, here at
the UN, where the representatives of respective
governments in the world work for promoting
peace and security, to “protect
future generations from the scourge of
war”. What we need now is the promotion
of security from a humanitarian perspective,
where the real needs of humanity are addressed.
In order to nurture this environment,
system of international law must be respected,
the idea of human security has to be developed.
It is said that globalization has changed many aspects of our lives
as well as the concept of security. Different
issues different nations are all interconnected,
and conflict cannot be solved by just
a single effort. As described in the report
In Larger Freedom by Kofi Annan, it is
said that “the threats to peace
and security in the twenty–first
century… includes poverty, disease
and environmental degradation…all
of these threats can cause death or lessen
life chances on a large scale, all of
them can undermine states as the basic
unit of the international system”.
Facing this change and challenge, the
concept of collective security is an ever
more necessary and important overarching
framework in dealing with different issues
and agendas. At this point, I would like
to claim that this collective security
has to be based on a humanitarian perspective
as a guiding principle. What I would like
to see at the coming Summit next week
at the UN is the emphasis on human security
and shift towards humanitarian approach
in all means of addressing the issues
we face today, respecting the interconnectedness
of development, human rights and security.
Only when this shift is achieved and when
we share the suffering pain as well as
the dignity and respect of all people,
I believe, freedom from want, freedom
from fear and the restoration of our own
dignity can be realized.
As a Japanese citizen, I would like to strongly insist on the adherence
to our peace constitution, Article 9,
which renounces war and the use of force
as means of settling international disputes.
A militaristic approach to peace and security
ultimately does not protect us and cannot
promote human rights. Militarism only
undermines the well-being of humanity
at the end. We learned from the past war
that the use of force can go as far as
total destruction of entire cities as
we witnessed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
We also learnt from our intolerable and
brutal conduct against people in neighboring
countries that weapons and militaristic
power can be used by an aggressor with
false legitimacy under the name of liberation
and freedom. Today we can see how the
people in Okinawa have been suffering
from the existence of the US bases that
creates unacceptable living conditions
with threats of accidents, intolerable
noise and ill behavior of military personnel.
Through these examples, it can be proved
that militaristic security undermines
Mr. Kenzaburo Oe, a Japanese Nobel Prize laureate, once described
Article 9 as a cry of those who experienced
and witnessed devastating destruction
and faced deep sorrow of losing their
loved ones at the end of war. It is a
sincere appeal from those who suffered
not to repeat the same atrocity ever again.
I am proud of having this constitution,
which is based on a humanitarian perspective
and I sincerely wish to see this concept
and philosophy adopted in the conduct
of international society.
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution:
......................1) Aspiring sincerely
to an international peace based on justice
and order, the Japanese people forever
renounce war as a sovereign right of the
nation and the threat or use of force
as means of settling international disputes.
......................2) In order to accomplish
the aim of the preceding paragraph, land,
sea, and air forces, as well as other
war potential, will never be maintained.
The right of belligerency of the state
will not be recognized.