Toward an Era of Human Rights: Building a People’s Movement (2018)
2018 Peace Proposal (Synopsis)
The adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in July 2017 was a breakthrough in a field that has been marked by seemingly unbreakable impasse. So long as nuclear weapons exist the quest for a world of peace and human rights for all will remain elusive.
This year, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights commemorates its seventieth anniversary, and in this proposal, I would like to offer perspectives on a human rights-focused approach to resolving global issues. I believe that such an approach, rooted in concern for the life and dignity of each individual, can bring about the fusion of ethics and policy that is required for an effective response.
In this context, the first theme I would like to stress is that at the heart of human rights is the vow never to allow anyone else to suffer what one has endured. This is the spirit embodied by the world’s hibakusha—victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of the production and testing of nuclear weapons worldwide—who provided the impetus that led to the Treaty’s adoption.
The second theme relates to the vital role of human rights education in surmounting social divides. Human rights education calls attention to the unconscious predispositions that fuel discrimination, offering people the opportunity to reflect on their everyday behavior.
I would like to propose that young people be the focus of the fourth phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education, slated to begin in 2020. Youth have a special aptitude for sharing what they have learned about human rights with others in their lives, making them a powerful force for expanding the circle of those committed to overcoming discrimination and prejudice and shifting the global current from one of division and conflict to one of coexistence.
The third theme is that the bonds that form a culture of human rights are woven through the experience of joy shared with others. I believe that the wellspring for creating a society of mutually enriching coexistence can be found in a way of life where we experience joy in seeing one another’s dignity radiate its full potential. It is my firm belief that the solidarity of ordinary people will be the driving force for the realization of a global society where all may live in peace and dignity.
I would like to make a number of specific proposals regarding the resolution of global issues from the perspective of protecting the life and dignity of each individual.
The nuclear weapons issue is the first thematic area about which I would like to make concrete proposals.
The ideal of international human rights law is the quest to protect the life and dignity of each individual in all national settings, a quest in which the continued pursuit of nuclear arms has no place.
The history of international law can be seen as the repeated effort to clarify the lines that sovereign states must not cross and to establish these limits as shared norms. Once an international norm has been clearly established, it carries a weight that shapes not only the behaviors of individual states but the course of the world as a whole.
Through the TPNW, nuclear weapons have been clearly defined as weapons whose use is impermissible under any circumstances. It is now time to earnestly interrogate the assumptions underlying nuclear deterrence policy.
In May, the UN will host a High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament. This will be one of the first venues for debate and deliberation that will include both the nuclear-weapon and nuclear-dependent states to be organized since the adoption of the TPNW. I strongly urge all participants to engage in constructive debate toward the goal of a world free from nuclear weapons. I hope that world leaders will take the opportunity to commit to steps that their governments can take in the field of nuclear disarmament in advance of the 2020 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This would also be a prime opportunity to make public which among the seven acts prohibited by the TPNW they could consider committing to. Additionally, it would be useful to generate a body of voluntary commitments by nonparties to the Treaty to abide by specific prohibitions under the Treaty, setting these forth in declarations of national policy.
We must remember that the TPNW did not arise in isolation from the NPT. Against the backdrop of a lack of progress in nuclear arms reduction, ongoing modernization of nuclear arsenals and critical proliferation challenges, now is the time to seek synergies between strengthening the foundations of the NPT and the prohibition norm clearly enunciated by the TPNW.
In this regard, I earnestly hope that Japan will take the lead in enhancing conditions for progress in nuclear disarmament toward the 2020 NPT Review Conference. Japan should use the opportunity of May’s High-Level Conference to stand at the forefront of nuclear-dependent states in declaring its readiness to consider becoming a party to the TPNW. Having experienced the full horror of nuclear weapons, Japan cannot turn away from its moral responsibility.
Another proposal I would like to make with regard to the TPNW is to mobilize the growing solidarity of civil society toward the universalization of the Treaty.
The SGI will, this year, launch the second People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition, featuring an increased focus on peace and disarmament education in support of the Treaty and promoting the concrete processes that will advance the cause of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
I think it is important that the global scale of support for the Treaty be made continuously visible. Efforts should be made to build an ever-broader constituency in favor of the Treaty and to encourage states not yet parties to the Treaty to attend the meetings of the states parties and review conferences in an observer capacity.
The second thematic area I would like to address is human rights. First, I would like to call for the improvement of conditions for refugee and migrant children. Currently, work is underway at the UN toward the adoption of two agreements—a global compact for migration and one for refugees. I would like to urge that human rights be identified as the thread that connects each of the individual elements in these compacts, and that the international community make the securing of educational opportunities for refugee and migrant children a priority objective and shared commitment.
I would also like to address the human rights of the elderly. It has been acknowledged that the enjoyment of all human rights diminishes with age, owing to negative images of the elderly as a burden to the economy and to younger generations. Such structural discrimination and prejudice can lead to the social exclusion of older persons and must be combated.
I strongly hope there will be an early start to negotiations on a convention on the rights of older persons. I would also like to propose that a third World Assembly on Ageing be held in Japan, where the aging of the population is more advanced than anywhere else in the world.
The Sustainable Development Goals
The third area I would like to address is how to catalyze momentum toward meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Combating climate change is a thorny challenge; however, I take hope in the ambitious initiatives being undertaken by and among local governments. Germany’s Federal Environment Ministry has taken the lead in establishing partnerships on climate action among municipalities within the European Union, an example of efforts to share best practices and lessons learned.
There is an urgent need to devise similar cooperative frameworks within the Northeast Asia region. To that end, I propose the establishment of a local government network for climate action between Japan and China, and I encourage municipalities in both countries to participate in the UN-led Climate Neutral Now initiative launched in 2015. The further fostering of cooperative action among local authorities in the two countries could create the foundation on which a broader regional framework can be built.
Finally, I would like to take up the question of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as it relates to the SDGs. This should not be regarded as just one of the seventeen SDGs, but rather should be recognized as key to accelerating progress toward the achievement of the entire spectrum of goals.
I would like to propose that the UN proclaim an international decade for women’s empowerment from 2020 to 2030. Women’s empowerment cannot be an optional agenda: It is an urgent priority for many people in dire situations.
It is the pledge of the SGI to continue striving to create a groundswell of people’s solidarity with which to surmount the challenges facing humanity, grounded in efforts to safeguard the life and dignity of each individual.