Rissho Kosei-kai Officials Attend 23rd UN Conference on Disarmament Issues
The 23rd United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues was held July 27-29 at a hotel in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, under the theme "Urgent and United Action Toward A Nuclear-Weapon-Free World." It was attended by 92 government officials, scholars, and leaders of NGOs from 24 countries. The Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace was represented by Rev. Munemichi Korozumi, a member of the Disarmament and Reconciliation Committee, who is vice patriarch of Kurozumikyo. The NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security was represented by one of its board members, Rev. Masamichi Kamiya, who is also the minister of Rissho Kosei-kai of New York. Rissho Kosei-kai was represented by Mr. Yasutomo Sawahata, chief of international interfaith dialogue of Rissho Kosei-kai's External Affairs Group.
The purpose of the conference was to spread awareness of international efforts for world peace among government officials and experts on disarmament through discussion of the issues of nuclear disarmament and the security of the Asia-Pacific region. The first conference was held in 1989, and since then the conference has been held annually in various cities in Japan.
In her opening address, Ms. Hannelore Hoppe, director and deputy to the UN's high representative for disarmament affairs, said civil society could greatly contribute to disarmament. She referred to fresh debate over the pros and cons of peaceful use of nuclear energy, which was stirred by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Fukushima Prefecture following the earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan March 11. She said she hoped the lessons from the disaster will contribute to improvements in the safety of nuclear power plants around the world.
In the following keynote address, Mr. Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the failure of the Fukushima nuclear power plant was a serious accident endangering human lives. He said he hoped the IAEA will lead the world in the peaceful use of nuclear energy in collaboration with national governments.
After that, participants in the following six plenary sessions actively discussed practical proposals for nuclear disarmament, nuclear programs in the Middle East, and radiation's effects on the human body and the environment.
On July 27, at Session 1, titled "We, the Peoples: Sustaining the Momentum Toward Peace and Disarmament," Dr. Carolina Hernandez, founding president and chair of the Institute for Strategic and Development Studies, the Philippines, said disarmament is an issue not only for governments and experts but ordinary people, who can also play a role in achieving that goal.
Responding to Dr. Hernandez, Rev. Kamiya pointed out the large gap between ordinary people and experts in the understanding of and interest in nuclear disarmament, and asked how the gap could be bridged.
In the following sessions, the participants proposed various ideas for nuclear disarmament including NGOs' participation in international treaty negotiations. The conference ended with a declaration that civilians must take the lead in achieving a world without nuclear weapons.
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