The need to accelerate progress toward the abolition of nuclear weapons, encourage youth engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and expand the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) network of universities has been highlighted in a wide-ranging proposal by Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist movement.
With 12 million members around the world, SGI is a community-based network promoting Buddhist humanism and peace. The SGI President has been issuing peace proposals since 1983, offering a Buddhist perspective and solutions to global problems on January 26 every year to commemorate the founding of the organisation.
Titled ‘Toward a New Era of Peace and Disarmament: A People-Centered Approach’, the 2019 annual peace proposal, released in Tokyo, focuses on expanding the scope of ratification of the TPNW to achieve its entry into force.
The Treaty was adopted by a vote of 122 States at the UN General Assembly on July 7, 2017, and opened for signature on September 20, 2017. It will enter into force 90 days after the 50th instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession has been deposited with the UN Secretary-General. Hitherto 70 countries have signed and 20 ratified the Treaty.
Dr. Ikeda urges the creation of a group of like-minded states to deepen the debate and promote ratification – Friends of the TPNW, modeled on Friends of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has been lying in limbo since 1996.
The SGI President calls on Japan to take the lead in this initiative, stating: “Since Japan has declared its desire to serve as a bridge between the nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states, it makes sense that it should take the initiative in creating a venue for such dialogue.”
He also highlights the new Cities Appeal of the 2017 Nobel Peace Laureate International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and its related #ICANSave social media initiative.
With an eye on the 2020 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), scheduled to hold its third session from April 29 to May 10, 2019 at United Nations Headquarters in New York, Dr. Ikeda calls for steps such as the removal of nuclear warheads from high-alert status.
Against the backdrop that the previous review conference in 2015 did not achieve consensus due to longstanding disagreements between nuclear and non-nuclear States, he further proposes that a fourth special session of the UN General Assembly devoted to disarmament (SSOD-IV) be held in 2021.
The SGI President also stresses the dangers of emerging Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) and proposes the prompt convening of a conference to negotiate a treaty banning these weapons, often referred to as “killer robots”.
Applauding the May 2018 Disarmament Agenda of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Dr. Ikeda advocates a shift from seeing security solely in terms of state or military security toward a human focus, a people-centered multilateralism based on the effort to build a world in which all people can experience meaningful security.
He notes how the complexity and scale of global challenges can make youth feel that positive change is impossible. He calls on young people to resist feelings of resignation and “meet the severe challenges of our age as agents of proactive and contagious change”.
Dr. Ikeda urges youth involvement in the SDGs as crucial to their achievement. He calls for expansion of the UNAI network of universities committed to supporting the SDGs through research and teaching programs, and proposes the convening of a world conference of such universities in 2020.
He also welcomes the designation of youth as the focus of the fourth phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education.
Another emphasis of the peace proposal is on SDGs concerned with water resource management. Dr. Ikeda hopes that Japan will apply its experience to the resolution of water-related problems in Northeast Asia and regional confidence building, and that Japan, China and South Korea will work together to offer support to countries in the Middle East and Africa where there is growing demand for water reuse and desalination. [28 January 2019]
Photo: High-level Event on Youth2030: Launch of the UN Youth Strategy and Generation Unlimited Partnership (UN Photo)