Learning online and commemorating the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima

Sep 20, 2020

This year, which marks the 75th anniversary of atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and Hiroshima Prefecture co-hosted the second Hiroshima-ICAN Academy on Nuclear Weapons and Security between July 13 and August 6, 2020. As an International Steering Group member of ICAN, Peace Boat played a central role in the planning and management of the Academy. The program selected 31 participants, including 15 from nuclear weapons states (the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China) and 16 from other states (Australia, Brazil, DR Congo, Georgia, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Poland and Uganda). Despite the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic, the Academy was held virtually, utilising online learning materials and webinars.

Learning online

The Academy participants learnt about the reality of the atomic bombings and international trends of nuclear weapons and global security through four themes:

  1. Humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons
  2. Political, legal, and technical aspects of nuclear weapons and global security
  3. Civil society in action, and
  4. Diplomacy for disarmament and security, and the role of the United Nations

Participants studied individually with online learning materials including videos and reading materials. These included not only documents and media already available to the public, but also numerous videos made exclusively for the Academy participants by guest educators.

Online lectures by distinguished experts - perspectives of Hibakusha, international organizations, and academia

The first webinar was held with on July 27 Kondo Koko, Robert A. Jacobs and Magnus Løvold, together on the theme of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Koko Kondo is an atomic bomb survivor and the daughter of Tanimoto Kiyoshi, a Methodist minister famous for his work with the Hiroshima Maidens. After participants heard her first-hand testimony of the bombing of Hiroshima, Robert Jacobs of Hiroshima City University spoke about Global Hibakusha, followed by Magnus Løvold, policy adviser of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Thanks to advance learning held before the session, participants could spend the majority of the webinar asking questions directly of the speakers. Topics included: what kind of support Hibakusha received in the years and decades following the atomic bombing; empowering radiation-affected communities to record and maintain ownership of their oral histories; and how the emphasis on the humanitarian impact helps non-nuclear weapons states participate in international disarmament discussions.

The second webinar on August 3 focused on the political, legal and technical aspects of nuclear disarmament, building on the first webinar's examination of their humanitarian impact. Guest educators were Treasa Dunworth of the University of Auckland on disarmament law, postdoctoral scholar Kjølv Egeland of the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, and Nagasaki University professors Nakamura Keiko and Suzuki Tatsujiro. Their enlightening talks brought thoughtful questions and discussion from participants. The questions covered topics such as the conservative yet transformative nature of law, the implications and dangers of emerging technologies with regard to nuclear weapons, and the complementary nature of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Participants also shared their own inspirations to become involved in nuclear disarmament, a conversation which allowed participants to come closer together, despite being physically apart.

August 6, 2020 – Different Perspectives on the Path Forward for Nuclear Disarmament from different perspectives

On August 6, the anniversary of the atomic bombing, Academy participants viewed the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony online, imagining the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima on the same exact day, 75 years ago.

Following the ceremony, participants took part in two online sessions. In the first, diplomats from France, Germany, Russia, South Africa, Japan and Mexico shared their countries’ stances on nuclear disarmament and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The highlight of the latter session was a panel discussion titled “Diplomacy for disarmament and security and the role of the United Nations,” featuring Hiroshima Prefecture Governor Yuzaki Hidehiko, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Nakamitsu Izumi, senior Austrian diplomat Alexander Kmentt and ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn. The discussion included topics such as cooperation between government and civil society and how to break the nuclear disarmament impasse. Academy participants joined online, while Governor Yuzaki, High Representative Nakamitsu, the session’s facilitator Annelise Giseburt and youth representative from Hiroshima Mary Popeo, as well as special guest Hibakusha Kondo Koko, were physically in Hiroshima, looking out over the Atomic Bomb Dome and the Peace Park. Kondo Koko told participants again that she trusts in and depends on youth around the world for the future of the planet. Carolina Panico from Brazil and Seita Hana from Japan represented the participants in this discussion, pointing out the importance of diversity within the disarmament movement, the power of first-hand testimonies, and how to reshape global norms around nuclear weapons to emphasize their unacceptable humanitarian impact. Finally they concluded their remarks with the message, “let us make the world free from nuclear weapons while the Hibakusha are still alive.”

Please see this report from Hiroshima Prefecture containing some of the highlights and key quotes from the final webinar.

Hoping to meet in person in Hiroshima

The Academy 2020 is being conducted in two parts. Part 1 comprised the online learning course and webinars outlined above, while Part 2 is planned to be an in-person training program to take place in Hiroshima City, with future dates to be confirmed based upon careful examination of the COVID-19 situation.

Having spent almost one month learning together online, the31 participants look forward to meeting in person and continuing their discussions even more deeply in Hiroshima. Since the conclusion of Part 1 participants have continued to be active in participating or organizing events to deepen understanding of nuclear weapons. The Academy organisers sincerely hope they will continue to play an active role in the global arena, pursuing various paths to together contribute to a peaceful world.

This online learning course was made possible based on the prior success of online Hibakusha testimony sessions and virtual tours of the museums of Hiroshima and Nagasaki planned and organized by Peace Boat and ICAN in previous months.

We would like to express our special thanks to the programme’s three coordinators - Annelise Giseburt, Iwasaki Yumiko and Fukuoka Nao. As main coordinators, Annelise and Yumiko made great efforts to make the webinars as interactive as possible, and Nao planned and coordinated the creation of videos to introduce Hiroshima. Peace Boat staff members Kawasaki Akira and Watanabe Rika developed and organized the programme in cooperation with the Hiroshima Prefecture and the ICAN staff team in Geneva.

The Hiroshima-ICAN Academy will continue in 2021 and beyond, as a concrete initiative to contribute to the realization of a nuclear-free world while strengthening cooperation with the atomic bombed city, ICAN and young leaders for the future.  


Relevant documents and links from the Academy 2020: