Hiroshima G7 Youth Summit ahead of the G7 Summit

May 30, 2023

This year, the G7 Summit was held in Hiroshima, a city which experienced the dropping of an atomic bomb. Ahead of the summit which was held May 19-21, on 25 April, 50 young people gathered at Hiroshima University's Higashihiroshima Campus to learn about the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and take part in three days of discussion towards a nuclear-weapon-free world at the Hiroshima G7 Youth Summit.  The youth were from 19 countries (Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Fiji, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Rwanda, Singapore, the Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the US). Thirty-seven were from G7 countries, including 9 from Japan and 9 from the US.  The Summit was sponsored and organized by ICAN, hosted and co-organized by The Center for Peace, Hiroshima University (CPHU), co-sponsored by Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, ANT-Hiroshima, Soka Gakkai International (SGI), Peace Boat and supported by the City of Hiroshima, Religions for Peace Japan and Heinrich Boell Stiftung Hong Kong. 

Thinking about what nuclear weapons are in Hiroshima

The summit was opened by Hiroshima University President Ochi Mitsuo and Peace Boat’s Kawasaki Akira.  President Ochi asked participants to “re-think carefully what ‘peace’ actually means in this chaotic world" he said, adding "you may come across a challenging question or issue such as ‘how to end war and regain peace’. For such tough question, I sincerely hope that you will be able to deepen your level of discussion, using your youthful and flexible thinking skills, so that the first step will be made towards realizing world peace." 

Participants heard from a wide range of experts about what nuclear weapons do and how we eliminate them using international law. Professor Noriyuki Kawano and Luli van der Does, and Talei Mangioni of the School of Culture, History and Language, Australian National University helped the participants gain a better specific understanding about nuclear weapons and their consequences on people and the environment. Professor Tomotsugu Shinsuke spoke about the challenges in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, while Helen Durham and Alicia Sanders-Zakre talked about the power of international law, and  introduced participants to the details of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Participants then engaged in discussed and shared opinions on the theme of nuclear weapons and politics. Coming from all over the world, they were nervous about meeting each other for the first time or for some delighted to see each other again after a long time. Many felt encouraged to be with people their age who were interested in the same issues. One participant from Maohinui (French Polynesia), where hundreds of nuclear tests were repeatedly carried out between 1966 and 1996, said: 'The nuclear research in Hiroshima made a deep impression on me. I realised that [my hometown and Hiroshima] share the same suffering.

Meeting Hibakusha at the hypocentre

On 26 April, the group moved to Peace Park and Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima City to hear the testimony of Ogura Keiko, who was exposed to the atomic bomb at the age of eight. Ms Ogura shared many of her personal experiences with the participants. She spoke about her happy memories of when she first came into contact with English and how during the war she was made to believe that people from enemy countries were terrible and how she felt bitter because there was nothing to eat. She also spoke about her feeling  in the aftermath of the bombing; she gave water to someone who had been burned by the bomb and she felt guilty for a long time when that person died in front of her after drinking water she gave.

Ms Ogura was asked, "What should we do as the last generation to be able to hear directly from people like you?" and she answered, "First of all, learn about it, and then talk about it and discuss it among people from different countries like you”.

After listening to her testimoniy, the Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace (HIP) guided the participants around the Park stopping at A-bomb Dome and the Children’s Peace Monument. A participant from France said: 'We must not repeat the tragedy. I want to share what I learned in Hiroshima with young people and many others".

The role of young people in working towards a world without nuclear weapons

In the evening on 26 April, an event was held in the Memorial Hall of the museum and was open to the public to discuss "how the younger generation can take action for a world without nuclear weapons".

The event included a message video from Matsui Kazumi, Mayor of the City of Hiroshima, and speakers from the G7 countries took the stage under the chairmanship of Professor Robert Jacobs of Hiroshima City University. The Japanese participant from Hiroshima on the stage renewed his desire to continue working towards the abolition of nuclear weapons.

One participant from the US commented: 'Until now, I have learnt facts such as how many people died in the atomic bombing, but I have never had access to personal experiences, so it was significant to hear directly from an A-bomb survivor”. She further said, "I would like to strengthen our involvement in the abolition of nuclear weapons by deepening the connections between the younger generation who share similar views.

Youth Statement

On 27 April, the final day of the summit, the Youth Statement from the Hiroshima G7 Youth Summit was released, urging the G7 leaders to move forward on nuclear disarmament. The statement listed 11 requests for the G7 countries, including support for Hibakusha around the world, visits to the Peace Memorial Museum, steps to advance the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), and further research in areas affected by nuclear weapons. The seven representatives appealed to the G7 leaders to take these requests on board and urge them to take decisive actions. “Given the conflicts and crises we face today, we believe that the time for action against nuclear weapons is now. As young people, we champion the TPNW as the most effective path to eliminating nuclear weapons.” the statement said.

After the closing of the conference, many participants, including some from nuclear-weapon states, commented that they had become more confident that nuclear weapons could be abolished. I want to take action together to realise this", they said emphatically.