Japanese students hold mock Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Apr 12, 2022

The first Meeting of States Parties (MSP) to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will be held in Vienna on June 21-23. The threat of nuclear war is now ever more real, as Russia continues its military invasion of Ukraine. The world stands at a historic crossroads, and discussion toward the abolition of nuclear weapons is now crucial.

Within such a context, Peace Boat cooperated with student-led organisation KNOW NUKES TOKYO to hold an online mock MSP on March 20. 32 high school and university students from throughout Japan gathered together, and in the roles of 10 countries - including those participating in the meeting as observers and nuclear weapon states, as well as representatives of civil society, held active discussion toward the adoption of a final document, following one month of preparations.

Plenary Session

The plenary session was opened by Peace Boat’s Kawasaki Akira, followed by several powerful video messages and remarks by Ms Nemoto Kaoru, Director of the United Nations Information Center in Tokyo; Mr Régis Savioz, Head of Delegation in Japan of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); and Dr Tomonaga Masao, atomic bomb survivor from Nagasaki and Executive Committee Chairman of the Global Citizens Assembly for Nuclear Weapons Abolition.

After being declared open by Austria, President of the meeting, attendance of each country was taken, and observer countries gave their reasons for participation. Participating State Parties were Mexico, South Africa, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Ireland, and Malaysia, while participating observers were Germany, the Republic of Korea and Australia. The nuclear weapon states United Kingdom and China gave reasons for their non-participation. Civil society was represented by delegations from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and the ICRC.

In their two-minute speeches, each country presented how to promote further ratification of the TPNW, and how to implement it realistically, based on their historical background, geographical and political situation, and efforts toward nuclear abolition. Specific contextual explanations were added, such as the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, the situation of nuclear survivors, and policy focused on gender. Observer countries also shared concerns such as NATO membership, nuclear threats to their neighbours, and security treaties with the United States. Civil society delegates stressed the importance of always keeping humanity at the centre, remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the perspectives of nuclear survivors.

Following the speeches, 15 joint statements were announced by a range of states or groups sharing the same position. The statements varied in content and were specific and grounded in reality, such as victim assistance, action for nuclear disarmament, cultivating peace between NATO countries and Russia, and a proposal for a Middle East Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone.


Closed Sessions – free negotiations toward a final document

Following the opening, free negotiations were held behind closed doors, aiming to reach agreement on a final document which had been drafted in advance, and create a new joint statement. Session 1 focused on victim assistance and environmental remediation. Proposals were made for assistance from the perspective of gender disparity, and the establishment of an international agency to implement concrete assistance measures. In Session 2, it was agreed that active multilateral negotiations are needed toward the universalisation of the treaty amongst all states, including nuclear weapon states; and that each country should continue to deepen relations with nuclear weapon states and establish a concrete path toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.

As the closed negotiations were underway, a video summarising these discussions was broadcast for the broader audience. Featuring Peace Boat’s Kawasaki and Nakamura Shizuka and Takahashi Yuta of KNOW NUKES TOKYO, it highlighted the heated, realistic and concrete debates undertaken by the students, and further introduced concepts related to victim assistance in relation to the treaty. The positions of the UK and China, not participating in the MSP, were also introduced in side events. The UK presented a joint position of the nuclear weapon states, while China reiterated that it possesses nuclear weapons for self-defence, manages them responsibly, and has a no-first-use policy. A lively exchange took place in this discussion, including questions regarding China’s position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Adoption of Final Document After Tenacious Negotiations

In the concluding session, final adjustments were made to the wording and content of the final document. The document consists of three parts: a preamble, a section on victim assistance and environmental remediation (redefining nuclear victims/shared awareness/action plan), and a section on the involvement of all states including nuclear weapons states (shared awareness/action plan), each of which received many detailed comments from various states. The action plan included specific items such as the establishment of a Global Hibakusha Relief Association, medical support specifically for impacted women, and the early establishment of an international verification agency for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Conclusion and steps toward the future

Work towards the mock MSP began on February 20, 2022. Students were divided into teams, and spent one month researching the positions of the state or body they were to represent. During this month a series of online discussions with experts and amongst the students themselves were held, deepening their understanding of the TPNW and international law regarding nuclear weapons. This month of enormous effort and dedication culminated in the full day’s discussions on March 20, and the conclusion of a final document. Through this process, participants learned about the roles of each state, and how they themselves related to these issues. At the same time, they keenly felt the need for more persistent efforts to truly create a bridge to the nuclear weapon states, which currently turn their backs against the treaty. Even in the face of such challenges, participants reaffirmed their commitment to continuing to work toward a nuclear-free world, as long as people continue to suffer as a result of nuclear weapons. Peace Boat is excited to work together with these young leaders toward the MSP to be held in Vienna in June 2022.