Each year since 1983, Daisaku Ikeda, the founder and president of Soka Gakkai International, has issued a Peace Proposal. Many of these proposals have included the subject of abolishing nuclear weapons – weapons that Ikeda’s mentor, Josei Toda, rightly called an “absolute evil.” In his 2014 Peace Proposal, his 32nd, President Ikeda puts forward an extremely important idea, that of holding a World Youth Summit to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in 2015. It is this part of his 2014 proposal that I will address in this article.
Convening a World Youth Summit to Abolish Nuclear Weapons implies that the leaders and diplomats of the world have not achieved success in dealing with nuclear weapons. This is clearly the case. As Ikeda points out, 2015 will mark the 70th year since the atomic bomb was created, tested, and then used twice in warfare, once on the city of Hiroshima and once on the city of Nagasaki. Despite the risk that nuclear weapons continue to pose to humanity, their threat still hangs over our collective heads.
The survivors of those bombings saw firsthand the damage done to their cities by the blast, fire and radiation. They have since learned that the consequences of the atomic bombings cannot be confined in space or time. The average age of these atomic bomb survivors now surpasses 78 years, and yet their fervent dream of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons remains unrealized. They have done their best to assure that their past does not become someone else’s future, but the leaders of the nuclear weapon states have failed to negotiate for Nuclear Zero, let alone achieve it.
The year 2015 will also mark the 45th year since the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty entered into force. That treaty was designed not only to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, but also to level the playing field among nations by assuring that the parties to the treaty pursue negotiations in good faith for a cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and for nuclear disarmament. The non-nuclear weapon states signed this treaty in good faith, believing that the nuclear weapon states would fulfill their part of the bargain by negotiating in good faith for a world free of nuclear weapons.
Convening a World Youth Summit to Abolish Nuclear Weapons also implies that new thinking regarding security and nuclear weapons is needed. Where better can this new thinking come from than the youth of the world? The old thinking, embodied in nuclear deterrence strategy, is based upon the belief that the threat of mass annihilation will keep the peace. This hypothesis has never been proven and has come close to failing on many occasions. It has, however, kept alive the threats of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) and Self-Assured Destruction (SAD).
To anyone who studies nuclear deterrence theory carefully, it must seem like a game of Russian roulette with a bullet loaded in one of six chambers of a gun pointed at the head of humanity. In fact, Martin Hellman, a Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, estimates that a child born today has a one-in-six chance of dying due to a nuclear war during his or her expected 80-year lifespan.
The world of the future belongs to the youth of today, but if they are not active in claiming this world, they may be subject to the consequences of the clash between powerful technologies and a level of human wisdom inadequate to control these technologies. Rather than sitting idly awaiting these consequences, Ikeda calls upon the youth of the world to take matters into their hands and develop a plan to abolish nuclear weapons. He calls for a specific outcome of the World Youth Summit, the adoption of “a declaration affirming their commitment to bringing the era of nuclear weapons to an end.”
To achieve this objective, young people will need to commence an exchange of ideas on developing a plan of action to abolish nuclear weapons. They will need to talk to each other across borders, learning together and planning together. They will need to focus their youthful enthusiasm on seeking a way out from under the nuclear threat that continues to hang precariously above all humanity. The youth will need to organize and develop strategies to lead their political leaders. They will need to see the world with fresh eyes, in order to teach their elders what is possible in that new world, when the threat of mass annihilation is removed because nuclear weapons are abolished and prohibited.
The World Youth Summit to Abolish Nuclear Weapons could base its declaration on ridding the world of nuclear dangers to all humanity, but especially to the youth of the world themselves. They could also argue their case on the need to disinvest in these dinosaur-like weapons and invest instead in meeting human needs, such as food, potable water, shelter, health care and education, and in protecting the environment from climate change and other serious threats.
Abolishing nuclear weapons is critical, but it is only a beginning. The youth of the world would find that, if they succeeded in ridding the world of nuclear dangers, they could do much more. They could turn their attention to building a world without war and one that is just for all, a world in which the arc of history would bend toward justice at a rate commensurate with the need to assure human dignity for all.
Daisaku Ikeda points out, “The greatest significance of such a summit and declaration would lie in the spur they provide to future action.” I would only add to this that the future is now; it is time for the youth of the world to seize the initiative to build a peaceful, just and ecologically sound world, free of nuclear threat – one that they will be proud to pass on to future generations.
David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). He and Daisaku Ikeda had a dialogue that was published in Japan and the U.S. as Choose Hope, Your Role in Waging Peace in the Nuclear Age.