Amid growing concerns of nuclear weapons use, participants learn together in the Hiroshima-ICAN Academy 2022

Dec 20, 2022

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and Hiroshima Prefecture co-hosted the fourth Hiroshima-ICAN Academy on Nuclear Weapons between October 25 and November 12, 2022. As an International Steering Group member of ICAN, Peace Boat plays a central role in the planning and organization of the Academy. The program this year selected 29 participants, including 5 from Nuclear Weapon States (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China) and 15 from other states (Australia, Austria, Brazil, Fiji, India, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Mongolia, Rwanda, South Africa, Uzbekistan, Zambia).

Academy participants learned about the reality of the atomic bombings and international trends of nuclear weapons and global security

The Academy 2022 was held in two sessions; ”Online Learning and Webinar Session”, and “Hiroshima Session” under the overall theme “Nuclear weapons and sustainability”. As the grave risks associated with nuclear weapons have become evident this year along with the growing global concerns on climate and health crises, participants sought sustainable solutions to present security issues through a critical and interactive learning process.

Expanding perspectives through online learning and interactive webinars

During the webinars, participants learned about four themes: the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons; the political, legal, and technical aspects of nuclear weapons and global security; civil society in action; and disarmament diplomacy and the role of the United Nations.

In the first webinar on October 25, participants virtually met  Koko Kondo, who was exposed to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as a young girl. In her talk, Koko shared her experiences in the years following the atomic bombing — such as being examined by Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission doctors, meeting Enola Gay co-pilot Captain Robert Lewis, and hearing her father’s own story of August 6, 1945 — and how they shaped her understanding of the atomic bombing and war. Participants also met a downwinder and writer Mary Dickson from the United States, who spoke about the hidden legacies of nuclear testing in the US, including how she, her family, and friends have been impacted by cancers and other illnesses.

The second webinar on October 28, with the theme of how nuclear disarmament correlates with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was joined by guest speakers Kunihiko Shimada, Principal Director for the Hiroshima Organization for Global Peace (HOPe), and Rebecca Irby, Co-Founder and Board President of the nonprofit PEAC Institute. Mr Shimada spoke about HOPe’s initiatives for disarmament, as well as global mindsets regarding nuclear weapons, and answered questions from participants about sustainability, the UN, and nuclear power. Ms Irby spoke about the intersection of race, disarmament, and decolonization. Participants asked her about indigenous rights and land contamination from nuclear testing, institutional power and historical exploitation built into the UN system, and the impacts of nuclear energy on Indigenous communities.

The third webinar on November 1, on the theme of “Nuclear weapons’ impact on environment – past, present and future.” welcomed University of Otago Research Fellow Karly Burch — as well as her research collaborators — to speak about radioactive pollution from nuclear technologies and its connection to nuclear colonialism and nuclear imperialism, as well as guide the participants in small-group discussions. Participants also engaged with ICAN International Steering Group and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) member Ira Helfand, MD, who spoke about the humanitarian consequences of any future use of nuclear weapons in war, including the specific medical needs of the victims, the destruction of economic and social systems, and the impact on global temperature and food production due to “nuclear winter.” Finally in this webinar, UN Undersecretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu spoke of the current high risk of nuclear weapons being used in war — further highlighting the need for immediate engagement on disarmament — as well as the connections between nuclear disarmament and the SDGs in areas such as gender and the environment. The Q&A touched on topics such as the role of so-called “smaller” states and civil society in achieving disarmament, hopes for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) going forward, and the role of youth in disarmament efforts.

In the fourth webinar on November 4, under the theme of “Financial aspects of nuclear weapons – spending, corporations and divestment.”, ICAN’s Financial Sector Coordinator Susi Snyder and Bank für Kirche und Caritas Head of Sustainable Investment Research Tommy Pimonte joined the participants. Susi spoke about successes achieved by ICAN’s financial sector campaign, as well as how the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’s obligations and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights can provide a framework for engagement from finance institutions. Tommy explained how financial sector concepts such as risk management and universal ownership can be utilized to advocate for divestment from nuclear weapons industries, as well as some practical examples of engagement from his bank’s own work. 


Nuclear issues discussing from perspectives of sustainability and a fight for justice

24 of the 29 Academy participants were able to join the four-day in-person session in Hiroshima, with the other five connecting online.

During their time in Hiroshima, participants took a guided tour of Peace Memorial Park, visited Peace Memorial Museum, and paid calls to Hiroshima Prefecture, Hiroshima City, and local newspaper Chugoku Shimbun. In addition to these excursions, they spoke (and ate lunch with) with Hibakusha in small groups, and later shared the stories they heard with each other. A special thank you to Kajimoto Yoshiko, Horie Soh, Miyazaki Chiyo (daughter of Lee Jong-keun), Araki Fumiko, and Futagawa Kazuhiko for sharing their stories.

Participants also learned about initiatives for peace education and nuclear disarmament by youth from Nagasaki, as well as the ongoing impacts of nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands and the Marshallese community’s struggles for justice, thanks to presentations from guests from those two regions. Meisei University Professor Takemine Seiichiro, who researches the impacts of nuclear testing in the Pacific, also joined to add further insight.

Participants took the opportunity to be in Hiroshima in-person and visited Governor Yuzaki, Mayor Matsui and Chugoku Newspaper. Governor Yuzaki and Mayor Matsui gave comprehensive presentations on how the Hiroshima Government Prefecture and City share a local and international responsibility to be leaders in nuclear disarmament. Kanazaki Yumi, director of the Peace Media Center of Chugoku Newspaper, showed many articles on Hibakusha and the humanitarian consequences, of great interest for many of the participants. At the end of the day, encountering the local organization called ANT-Hiroshima and other active youth empowered participants to find ways to spread what they learned and felt in Hiroshima with others.


On the final day, participants were divided into three groups to give final presentations on their key take-aways from the Academy. Many spoke about what they gained from visiting Hiroshima, and others emphasised that nuclear weapons have the potential to impact all of us, no matter where we are from. In both presentations and group reflections, participants repeatedly raised the point that nuclear disarmament is a fight for justice that addresses not only security issues but also systemic oppression such as racism, colonialism and patriarchy. With these diverse perspectives and new friends from around the world, participants will keep working for the total abolition of nuclear weapons through concrete action plans for the years to come.

Organisers would like to express our special thanks to the four coordinators - Annelise Giseburt, Iwasaki Yumiko, Fukuoka Nao and Tashiro Mirei - for their preparation, facilitation and hospitality in Hiroshima. Peace Boat staff members Kawasaki Akira and Watanabe Rika developed and organised the programme in cooperation with the Hiroshima Prefecture and the ICAN staff team in Geneva.

Relevant documents and links from the Academy 2022:

Programme Framework and Profiles of Guest Educators and Coordinators (PDF document)
Online learning materials: prepared by Hiroshima Prefecture and ICAN
* Some videos are password protected, for participants only