Learning about nuclear weapons and security: Report on the Hiroshima-ICAN Academy 2019

Nov 30, 2019

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a Nobel Peace Laureate organization, and Hiroshima Prefecture co-hosted the first Hiroshima-ICAN Academy on Nuclear Weapons and Security between July 31-August 8, 2019. As an International Steering Group member of ICAN, Peace Boat played a central role in the planning and management of the Academy. The programme brought together fifteen selected participants, including eight from nuclear weapons states (the United States, China, France, the United Kingdom, and Russia) and seven from non-nuclear weapons states (Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Republic of Korea, Australia, and Japan). The participants learned about nuclear weapons and security, with the aim of making a concrete contribution to the world and developing leaders who can play an active role in the global arena.

See ICAN’s social media summaries of the programme here.

Experiencing Hiroshima through Field Work

The ICAN Academy had three pillars, as follows. First, to understand the reality of the atomic bombing, such as the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and health effects of radiation, through testimonies and experiential field work in the atomic bombed city Hiroshima. Second, to learn about global trends on nuclear weapons and global security through exchange with UN officials, diplomats, and civil society. And third, to acquire necessary skills and innovative visions for concretely contributing, in the global arena, towards realizing a peaceful world – to be presented to the public on the day of conclusion.

Of the 15 participants, half had never been to Japan before. Therefore, the first half of the intensive nine day programme focused on experiencing the city itself, including through visits to the Peace Park and Peace Memorial Museum.

Participants also had the opportunity to meet with several Hibakusha, or survivors of the atomic bombing, including Ms Ogura Keiko, Mr. Lee Jong-keun, a Zainichi Korean resident of Japan who experienced double discrimination as both a Korean and an A-bomb survivor, and Dr Kamada Nanao, to learn about research on the impacts of radiation. They also learned about initiatives led by the survivors, including the “Hibakusha Appeal” international signature campaign.

Other visits during the programme included the UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research) Hiroshima office, the Yano Minami Elementary School and its peace education programme, and Social Book Cafe Hachidori-sha, for an exchange with young people from Hiroshima on their role in raising awareness, education and making change.

Lectures by distinguished experts - perspectives of international organizations, national governments and civil society.

After hearing the first-hand testimonies of Hibakusha, participants deepened their knowledge through a series of lectures. They heard from Japan-based experts such as Robert Jacobs of Hiroshima City University on Global Hibakusha, Suzuki Tatsujiro and Nakamura Keiko of Nagasaki University on the vision of a Northeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, and Akiyama Nobumasa of Hitotsubashi University on nuclear disarmament as a regional security measure.

Internationally, participants learned about the history of nuclear weapons from Kjolv Egeland of the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, the humanitarian aspects of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons from Rebecca Gibbons of Harvard University. Skills-based sessions were led by ICAN’s Lucero Oyarzun.                                                                                                                           

August 6 in Hiroshima – the Anniversary

August 6 marked 74 years since the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Whilst looking back upon that day, participants attended the official Peace Ceremony to experience this significant day, and the voices of Hibakusha, dignitaries, and youth. In the afternoon, they had the opportunity to exchange with representatives of eight diplomatic missions or governments in Japan (Germany, Kazakhstan, Japan, Russia, France, Mexico, the Philippines and South Africa), learning about their policy and stance towards the nuclear weapons ban. A highlight of the day was also to hear from Nakamitsu Izumi, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.

In the evening, participants reflected back upon the experience while listening to a very special performance of a piano and violin which survived the atomic bombing, in a memorial concert held onboard Peace Boat, docked in Hiroshima to mark this anniversary.

Building upon the experience toward the future

On the last day, the students were divided into five groups to present what they had learned, on topics as follows:

  1. the creation of an interactive online platform to disseminate first-hand accounts of Hibakusha;
  2. the possibility that international law, particularly the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, could change the norms of disarmament to a humanitarian perspective;
  3. an analysis of the reasons why the DPRK and other countries are moving toward nuclear weapons possession;
  4. a new security theory that is not about nuclear deterrence; and
  5. a proposal for citizens, including young people, to address the issue of nuclear weapons.

At the end of the program, participants reflected on their experience, with one sharing that "I believe in the friends I've learned with, and I feel that we can accomplish a lot for a more peaceful world.”

With thanks to Fukuoka Nao and Terachi Ami, both previously involved in the Global Voyage for a Nuclear Free World – Peace Boat Hibakusha Project, for their vital role in coordination of this programme.

The Hiroshima-ICAN Academy will continue in 2020, as a concrete initiative to contribute to the realization of a nuclear-free world while strengthening cooperation with the atomic bombed city.

Please see here for relevant documents from the 2019 Academy: