In the current times of the pandemic, when the global economy is declining and political uncertainty rising, we are reminded of the meaning of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution for world peace, and recall the Global Article 9 Conference held in Tokyo in 2008. Particularly in the context of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, it is necessary to underline the crucial importance of Article 9 for peace in the entire Asian region.
The Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War was held in Japan from May 4-6, 2008, and attracted over 33,000 participants nationwide: over 22,000 in Tokyo, 8,000 in Osaka, 2,000 in Hiroshima and 1,000 in Sendai. Participants of the conference in Tokyo were queuing for hours to enter the venue, something unseen at any such political event.
Peace Boat was the initiator and one of the key co-organizers of the Conference, in coalition with several national and regional partners. As stated by Yoshioka Tatsuya, founder and director of Peace Boat, “The military involvement of the USA in Iraq and Afghanistan proved that peace can’t be created by force and military power. Article 9 is the tool to think how we can create peace by non-violent principles and values, through the rule of law and demilitarization. Maybe it is a long way, but it is the only way!”
Close to 200 international guest speakers and participants came from 40 different countries and regions to represent all continents at the conference. With the participation of Nobel Peace Laureates, intellectuals, cultural figures and NGO activists, the conference was a forum for dialogue on how the principles of Article 9 could be internationalized and campaigns for disarmament, demilitarization and a culture of peace promoted.
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution renounces war as a means of settling international disputes and prohibits the maintenance of armed forces and other war potential. Japan adopted this constitution following World War II, with Article 9 as a promise to itself and a pledge to the world, particularly neighboring countries that suffered under Japanese invasions and colonial rule, to never repeat its mistakes. As such, it also acts as a regional and international peace mechanism that has served as the foundation for collective security for the Asia Pacific region.
The unprecedented Global Conference on Article 9 was finalized by a declaration in which all official guests and the over 200 members of the organizing committee pledged to carry on an international campaign to support Article 9 "as a shared property of the world,” that can act as an international peace mechanism.
Peace Boat coordinates the Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War, which strives not only to protect Article 9 locally, but to engage in advocacy efforts at the international level, highlighting the global impact of Article 9, notably in the fields of conflict prevention, disarmament for development, the reduction of military spending, the codification of the human right to peace, as well as the promotion of peace constitutions.
Céline Nahory, for many years coordinator of the Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War and currently working at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), said: “Watching over 22,000 people mobilizing in Tokyo alone (33,000 throughout Japan) to attend the Global Article 9 Conference and take a stance for peace has been and will always remain one of the most powerful experiences in my life. The energy and sense of global responsibility that emerged during the two-day conference was unstoppable and had to carry on as part of the Global Article 9 Campaign. Today more than ever, it remains crucial that Article 9 is not just considered as a provision of the Japanese Constitution but really is understood for all it stands for and its role as an international peace mechanism.”