Column 4 HOPe Youth Ambassadors Consider the Connection Between a Sustainable Future and Nuclear Weapons
The First HOPe Youth Ambassadors for a Nuclear-Free Sustainable Future
We were appointed as the first “HOPe Youth Ambassadors for a Nuclear-Free Sustainable Future” by the Hiroshima Organization for Global Peace (HOPe) in October 2021. The team consists of three members: a university student and high school student, both from Hiroshima, as well as a Cambodian high school student who participated in the Hiroshima Junior International Forum organized by Hiroshima Prefecture that same year.
On the occasion of seventy-five years having passed since the atomic bombing, Hiroshima Prefecture formulated the Hiroshima Initiative—Global Call to Action to End for Nuclear Weapons— which has four pillars: (1) Achieving a U.N. consensus on the goal of ending nuclear weapons, (2) Strengthening global norms to reject nuclear weapons, (3) Promoting nuclear disarmament and seeking a security system that does not depend on nuclear weapons, and (4) Creating a platform for collaboration. HOPe was established in April 2021 to promote the Hiroshima Initiative, and is currently taking action based on the four pillars to clearly position the abolition of nuclear weapons as part of the post- SDGs—the successor to the current Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which expire in 2030—doing so with the aim of achieving agreement on the goal of nuclear abolition at the United Nations.
Young people who share a common awareness of the issues, are an essential part of these efforts. Youth ambassadors work together as parties who are living for the future, paying particular attention to the connection between nuclear weapons and the sustainability of the world we live in. How do nuclear weapons, with their enormous destructive power, affect the sustainable future that we are striving for now? What kind of world would be possible if there were no nuclear weapons? By raising these questions in concrete terms together with the various actors (stakeholders) that make up our society, we believe that we can encourage more people to think about the issue of nuclear weapons as something that directly affects them, and to join in calling for their abolition.
In FY2021, international conferences such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which the HOPe Youth Ambassadors were scheduled to attend, were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in order to establish a youth community sharing a common goal, HOPe has been working with seventeen young people from Hiroshima and other prefectures to hold a total of four workshops since December 2021. At these workshops, young individuals interested and actively engaged in the nuclear weapons and sustainability fields interacted with each other to find connections between the SDGs and nuclear-weapon-related issues using the unique perspective and tools of the younger generation, and to find ways to communicate this to their peers. Here, we would like to present the words of us, youth ambassadors, regarding insights gained and challenges faced through our participation in the workshop. Nothing would please us more than if we could work together with you to create a sustainable future without nuclear weapons.
What is the connection between the SDGs and nuclear weapons? Before participating in the workshop, I was not able to find an answer to this question, but through interacting with my fellow participants during the workshop, I found that there were many other members whose knowledge of either the SDGs or nuclear weapons is biased towards one or the other. Knowledge of the nuclear weapons issue varies depending on where you live. On the other hand, the SDGs are taught in many schools and have become commonly understood throughout the world, and I was reminded of the widespread belief that it is natural to make efforts to achieve the seventeen goals. I have a desire to convey the A-bomb experience to others, so that it is not forgotten, and to carry on the determination of the A-bomb survivors to never again repeat this—doing so even after they have passed away. This shares something in common with the SDGs, in that we are also working to build a peaceful world. I would like to make efforts to have the issue of nuclear weapons recognized by the world as a common issue for all humanity, while valuing the attitude of trying to understand both sustainability and nuclear weapons.
In the middle of the workshop, participants presented their ideas on “Nuclear Weapons, SDGs, and My Future.” Listening to the other participants’ presentations, I felt that they were all predicting the future with a focus on their own areas of interest. However, none of them predicted a future where nuclear weapons would actually be used, which made me feel that nuclear weapons are seen as a distant issue by the younger generation. Another participant commented that the SDGs aim to solve global issues created by humans, but some people are afraid of harming their own interests, meaning that we need to think about why some people are uncooperative and how we can get them to cooperate. How do we communicate our goals to as many people as possible, and get them to think together? When I heard the term “proposal making,” I thought it meant making a unilateral declaration. However, I now have a broader understanding that it is not limited to a one-time presentation, but rather refers to all advocative attempts to move society in various ways. I also learned that it is important to clearly identify the audience for a given proposal, and how to make the content relevant and interesting to them. In the workshop, we formed groups for creating proposals through education, job hunting, social media, and events, and we are working on them while consulting with each other online. We hope to formulate more concrete and feasible proposals so that our advocacy will reach many young people.