By Dylan Barker-Duggan
Last month, I visited Hiroshima to attend the Hiroshima-ICAN Academy.The event was jointly hosted and organised by ICAN, Peace Boat, and the Hiroshima Prefectural Office, drawing together a diverse cohort with participants from both nuclear and non-nuclear states, aged 19-24.
The preparatory phase featured a series of online Zoom workshops that laid the foundation for the subsequent sessions in Hiroshima. These sessions addressed crucial themes related to nuclear weapons, encompassing humanitarian, environmental, societal, and geopolitical aspects. The workshops featured distinguished guest speakers who provided valuable insights into the multifaceted dimensions of the nuclear discourse.
• Humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons:
Speakers: Koko Kondo (atomic bomb survivor), Mary Dickson (resident downwind of the nuclear test).
• Nuclear risks and emerging technologies:
Speaker: Julia Cournoyer (Royal Institute of International Affairs).
• Impact of nuclear weapons in society, economy, and the environment:
Speakers: Beddie LaCour (MISA4thePacific), Vincent Intondi (writer, professor at Montgomery University).
• Role of civil society for global security:
Speaker: Melissa Park (Executive Director of ICAN).• Nuclear risks in the changing world:
Speaker: Rebecca Davis Gibbons (Professor, University of Southern Maine).
• United Nations, the SDGs, and nuclear disarmament:
Speaker: Izumi Nakamitsu (UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament).
The interactive nature of the sessions fostered open discussions, providing a platform for in-depth exploration following the presentations by guest educators. Noteworthy was the engaging presentation by Dr. Vincent Intondi, whose passionate discourse on the intersection of nuclear weapons and social justice resonated strongly with participants, catalysing lively engagement.
On October 23rd, following a long journey, I arrived in Hiroshima. The academy spanned four days, commencing with an orientation. Kawasaki Akira, ICAN International Steering Committee Member, and Peace Boat Co-Representative set the tone by contextualising the international political landscape concerning nuclear weapons.
The day stared with a dynamic group discussion, facilitated by the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of the participants. This session served as a forum for the exchange of insights into disarmament efforts taking place in participants’ respective home countries. The wealth of experiences shared underscored the global significance of nuclear disarmament and provided a rich backdrop for the subsequent sessions.
We then had the privilege of a courtesy visit to Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui. Mayor Matsui, a key figure in Hiroshima’s peace efforts, delivered an interesting lecture explaining the city’s peace policies. Notably, he expanded on the Mayors for Peace initiative, an advocacy effort that Hiroshima City not only spearheaded but also chairs In the question-and-answer session that followed, participants actively engaged with Mayor Matsui, delving into the achievements and challenges of the G7 Hiroshima Summit and exploring the direction of peace-building initiatives in the contemporary global context.
We moved from the Mayor’s office to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Here, we were privileged to hear a first hand account from Keiko Ogura, a hibakusha and survivor of the atomic bombing. Ms. Ogura shared her poignant experiences, recounting the immediate aftermath of the bombing, the complex emotions of guilt towards fellow victims, and the discrimination she faced as a survivor. This personal narrative added a profoundly human dimension to the historical events discussed in the preceding workshops.
Post-lecture, we were free to explore the Peace Memorial Museum, immersing ourselves in exhibits that included personal belongings of atomic bomb survivors and documents detailing the devastating impact of the atomic bombing on Hiroshima. It was particularly interesting to see that many of the visitors that day were Japanese school children, some no older than 9 years old. I spoke to one of the guides and they said “In Hiroshima Prefecture, as the number of atomic bomb survivors ages, we believe that the role of young people who will lead the next generation is important in order to continue disseminating the message of abolition of nuclear weapons. We place great importance on having people experience the reality of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, so that they can become familiar with the atomic bombing.”