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Collective Security: The Priorities of Civil Society

58th Annual DPI/NGO Conference
United Nations, New York, 7-9 September 2005

by Hazuki YASUHARA

Peace Boat

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 weapons states.  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 violence.  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 Nations
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 perspective.

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 be instituted.

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 human rights.

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.

Thank you.

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.

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