(Photo: ICAN/Alex Papis)


A blueprint to eliminate nuclear weapons: Nuclear Ban Week in Vienna

Jun 29, 2022

On June 23, the historic first Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons concluded in Vienna, Austria with concrete steps to set the course for the Treaty’s goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

During the week leading up to this, Peace Boat took part in a range of both high-level and civil society events in coordination with the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Amidst a situation where the threat of nuclear weapons is even more urgent than before, the week amplified the voices of nuclear survivors from around the world, empower youth in their actions for nuclear abolition and justice, and strengthen connections and collaboration between civil society, researchers, likeminded governments and international organisations.

ICAN Nuclear Ban Forum

Over 500 people gathered in person and many more online for the ICAN Nuclear Ban Forum on June 18 and 19, featuring more than 100 diverse sessions. The event kicked off with a powerful panel hosted by Peace Boat’s Kawasaki Akira, with presentations by the real experts on nuclear weapons - Nagasaki survivor Kido Sueichi, downwinder Mary Dickson, nuclear justice campaigner Léna Normand, and climate activist Remy Zahiga (pictured above). The panel closed with a video featuring voices of Hibakusha who have spoken at Peace Boat’s online testimony events in the past two years, as can be seen below.

Programmes in Vienna also connected live with others around the globe, including with nuclear impacted communities in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as Port Augusta in South Australia, coordinated by Peace Boat and ICAN Australia.  Three generations of First Nation activists from Australia - Aunty Sue Coleman-Haseldine, Karina Lester, and Mia Haseldine – shared the history of nuclear testing on Indigenous land, heartbreaking testimony of physical and psychological impacts which are ongoing today, and the need for more data and research, open and accessible to impacted communities themselves. Their statement to the Prime Minister and Parliament of Australia, “Our stories and hopes are stronger than your weapons and fears,” can be read online here.

Following this, we heard from campaigners and survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. From Hiroshima we heard from Kinokokai, or the Association of Atomic Bomb Microcephaly Sufferers and Their Families, about the long-term effects of in utero radiation exposure. Learn more about their struggle and activities in this video (click to view). From Nagasaki, the experiences and decades long struggle for recognition of those still not acknowledged by the Japanese government as Hibakusha due to the drawing of arbitrary administrative lines were conveyed to the audience online and at the Vienna Hub, highlighting the need for victim assistance which truly leaves noone behind.

Peace Boat was also involved in a range of other programmes during the Forum, including a session on denuclearisation in Northeast Asia together with partners from the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC); collaboration with Japanese youth to facilitate exchange between Hibakusha and young people from around the world, presentation of the digest video from the December 2021 World Nuclear Survivors Forum, and more. Other sessions included discussions, panels, performances, VR experiences and more, for participants to connect the dots and consider the full nuclear cycle and how it connects to other urgent global challenges - and to together make a plan to end nuclear weapons!

Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons

On June 20, the Austrian Government convened the fourth Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, bringing together state representatives, international organisations, the scientific community, survivors and civil society. Following opening remarks by Austrian Minister Alexander Schallenberg, UN High Representative for Disarmament Nakamitsu Izumi and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Mohamed Elbaradei, a powerful session amplified the multigenerational testimonials of survivors of nuclear weapons use and testing from Japan and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

(Photo: ICAN/Alex Papis)

Sharing his experience of that day in August 1945, Nagasaki survivor Kido Sueichi emphasised that of the countless lives taken by the atomic bombs, only 4% of the dead were able to be cared for by their families - having to die without even understanding what had happened to them.

Nakamura Suzuka, co-founder of youth organisation Know Nukes Tokyo and a third generation A-bomb survivor from Nagasaki, spoke of her fear regarding the unknown intergenerational impacts of nuclear weapons, and the kindness and warmth of the Hibakusha - not “heroes of a tragedy,” but “living their lives.”

Danity Laukon, co-founder of the Marshall Islands Students Association MiSA4thePacific, shared about the ongoing damage nuclear testing caused for people, land, and culture, and the need for victim assistance obligated by the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to be focused on health assistance for victims facing these impacts NOW: “I can assure you as a young Marshallese woman, the intergenerational impacts of the human harm caused continues. I know from who I see everyday!!!!”

Click here for further details about the HINW Conference.

(Photo: ICAN/Alex Papis)


First Meeting of States Parties

Amidst this backdrop, and following a decade of hard work by states, civil society, survivors and victims, the historic first Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW took place between June 21-23. Addressing the opening session of the meeting, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “The once unthinkable prospect of nuclear conflict is now back within the realm of possibility. More than 13,000 nuclear weapons are being held in arsenals across the globe. In a world rife with geopolitical tensions and mistrust, this is a recipe for annihilation.”

During the three days, presided over by Austria’s Ambassador Alexander Kmentt, many states parties condemned Russia’s actions, expressing their determination to move ahead with implementing the TPNW and eliminating nuclear weapons, based on the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of their use and the growing risks that such use could occur. These discussions were supported by testimony from people and communities impacted by nuclear harm around the world. Peace Boat also presented a statement during the meeting, comprised of voices and recommendations from the 2021 World Nuclear Survivors Forum and coalition of Japanese civil society experts regarding the Treaty’s Articles 6 and 7 on victim assistance and environmental remediation. (read here)

The meeting concluded with the adoption of a political declaration and practical action plan that set the course for the implementation of the Treaty and progress towards its goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons. It reiterated the humanitarian basis of the treaty and the moral, ethical and security imperatives which inspired and motivated its creation and which now drive and guide its implementation. The Action Plan contains 50 specific actions for taking forward the mission of the treaty and realizing the commitments made in the Declaration, including actions on universalization; victim assistance, environmental remediation and international cooperation and assistance; scientific and technical advice in support of implementation; supporting the wider nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime; inclusion; and implementation of the treaty’s gender provisions. Please click to visit the ICAN homepage for more details about the declaration, action plan, and other outcomes of the meeting.

(Photo: ICAN/Alex Papis)

Nuclear Ban Week - online and in Japan

In addition to programmes in Vienna, as part of the Japan NGO Network for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Peace Boat was involved in coordinating more than one dozen connected events in Japan and online throughout the week. These included picture book storytelling, events from a medical and legal perspective, youth discussions, and a daily live connection to Vienna to share all the updates from the ground with audiences in Japan. Archives are available online here (Japanese language).

Throughout Nuclear Ban Week, the facts that nuclear harms continue beyond generations and decades, that nuclear threats are never acceptable, and that nuclear weapons must be eliminated were made clear. States Parties, civil society and others present recommitted to cooperating to do more to support people and places harmed by nuclear weapons, to encourage more countries to join the treaty, and to deepen collaboration and solidarity toward the realisation of a nuclear free world. With thanks to all of our friends and partners who have made it possible to come this far, and for the next steps to come!