Report by Sam Legg (Yorkshire CND’s Events & Campaigns Coordinator)
Last month, I visited Hiroshima to attend the G7 Youth Summit. This was hosted and co-organised by ICAN, Peace Boat & The Center for Peace, Hiroshima University.
I am very grateful to have been offered the opportunity to be a representative for the UK peace movement at this meeting, alongside other representatives from Christian CND and SCRAP Weapons. Whilst the anti-nuclear movement in the UK is not as strong among young activists as it once was, meeting over 50 other young peace activists filled me with enthusiasm for what is possible and to not give up hope. We must not be passive about our fight for peace, and continue to work with international groups to share ideas to help create a nuclear-free world.
As this meeting is the first time the leaders of G7 countries will collectively visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum together, with Rishi Sunak being the first British prime minister to ever visit the site of the world’s first nuclear attack, it’s understandable that all eyes will be on the G7 summit to observe this event that has the opportunity to reshape the world’s approach to, and understanding of, nuclear weapons.
This is the first of 3 posts that I shall be sharing this weekend, documenting my time spent at the G7 Youth Summit.
The summit was split over 3 days, the first of which focusing primarily on panel talks and workshops. These panels gave context behind the importance and opportunity for change we have, provided through the 2023 G7 meeting happening in Hiroshima. As the first city to have a nuclear weapon tested on it, understandably this has become a place for peace pilgrims and a place that has the ability to showcase the reality of what these weapons can do. In the context of today, some might refer to the weapon used (Little Boy) as a small nuclear weapon, but let it be clear that there is no such thing as a small nuclear weapon. Such wording diminishes the impact they have, and suggests that some are usable. The bomb that dropped on Hiroshima, which is considered a small bomb by today’s standards, killed around 140,000 people. That’s not even including the people who survived but suffered the long-term effects of the weapon both mentally and physically.
The first panel covered the mental and physical impact of nuclear weapons particularly well, stressing that this is not just a regular bomb. As told to us through the accounts of the Hibakusha (those affected by nuclear weapons), the path after surviving a nuclear bomb is not easy. Their path was filled with trauma, stigma, and is a long road to recovery.
Let’s first look at the personal effect of the bomb, which some child survivors referred to as ‘PIKA-DONG’ (meaning flash and boom). So initially only physical effects were apparent, but many survivors developed symptoms of Acute Radiation Syndrome. The uncertainty of what this meant for survivors left many with anxiety and instability, not helped by the discrimination held against them by the wider community. The discrimination against the Hibakusha wasn’t just something that happened for a couple of years; this happened for decades. Beyond just the way some now looked physically different to how they did pre-bomb, there was also a lot of concern about whether the young affected by the radiation would be able to safely have children in the future, which impacted heavily on marriage approvals and societal integration as a whole.
Later in the day, we discussed nuclear colonialism with a specific focus on the Pacific Islands. We agreed that not enough awareness and discussion is had on this, especially amongst young audiences. This is something Yorkshire CND hopes to combat in the coming months through talks and other outlets. We must see that to be anti-nuclear weapons we must be actively anti-racist by standing alongside our brothers and sisters from around the world to support the struggles caused by nuclear imperialism. Moving forward we must work against racism and nuclear weapons, with a focus on amplifying voices from impacted communities.
The Ōtepoti Declaration by the the Indigenous Caucus of the Nuclear Connections Across Oceania Conference: https://nuclear-connections.mailchimpsites.com/declaration
Understanding the challenges and opportunities of international law is always a vital tool to have in an anti-nuclear activists toolkit. As the summit primarily focused around the routes to the G7 states signing and ratifying the TPNW (Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons), understanding what laws nuclear-weapon states have already shown support for may well act as key for engagement. Some primary examples of this include how the threat or use of nuclear weapons violates the Right to Life, or we could build upon the principles and language used to regulate chemical and biological weapons. International Humanitarian Law may also be useful when petitioning political figures to sign a TPNW pledge. The basis of humanitarian law is that parties to any conflict should seek to distinguish between civilian and military targets, which is repeated in the basic rules of the 1949 Geneva Convention. It is clear that the use of Trident, or any nuclear weapon system, would result in a massive number of casualties across a wide area. It’s vital that we remember that nuclear weapons are not able to distinguish between civilian or military targets, so will kill and have a lifelong impact on people regardless of who they are. This is also a rising concern amongst groups like Stop Killer Robots, citing militarised technology like drones as being a threat to civilian life.
Read more on the legality of nuclear weapons here: https://cnduk.org/legality-of-nuclear-weapons/
The latter half of the afternoon included opportunities to develop our knowledge of how to creatively engage with our campaign work, with a workshop entitled ‘Telling our story carefully and creatively’. I was particularly interested in how ICAN have used the voices of the Hibakusha in their campaign work, and included them at every part of the process when releasing their stories in other formats e.g. for social media. Coming from a background in anthropology, it is sad to acknowledge that this is often not the approach used to document the knowledge of communities. Whilst there is a movement to decolonise anthropology, it is not as commonplace within the discipline as it should be. I was therefore thrilled to see the genuine interest and desire to showcase, take seriously, and understand the knowledge of Hibakusha. As Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida recently stated,
“I believe the first step toward any nuclear disarmament effort is to provide a first-hand experience of the consequences of the atomic bombing and to firmly convey the reality”.
Therefore, we can only hope that using the first-hand accounts from the mouths of the Hibakusha that are still around today will convey the reality of nuclear weapons, and act as a key stepping stone to convincing G7 leaders to take a more active stance for nuclear disarmament.
The first day of the Youth Summit culminated in a film screening of ‘8:15 Hiroshima’, which had been recently adapted to film from the book ‘8: 15: A True Story of Survival and Forgiveness from Hiroshima’ by Dr. Akiko Mikamo. The film follows the account of Shinji Mikamo, who was on the roof of his home when the atomic bomb exploded. Taking its title from the time the bomb went off, marked in his father’s clock, it uses an accessible and emotive narrative to tell an impactful story. If you are interested in seeing the film, or reading the book, please follow the links below.
Documentary information: https://www.815documentary.com/
Photos supplied by ICAN