By Ramesh Jaura
BERLIN (IDN) - Describing the disorientation and anarchy in the aftermath of First World War in 1919, the Irish poet W. B. Yeats wrote in his renowned poem The Second Coming: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” At a time when, despite the absence of a global war, things appear to be falling apart again, the Buddhist philosopher and educator Daisaku Ikeda does not despair and, in fact, shows the way to “value creation for global change”.
To celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) – a Tokyo-based lay Buddhist movement linking more than 12 million people around the world – he has offered “thoughts on how we can redirect the currents of the twenty-first century toward greater hope, solidarity and peace in order to construct a sustainable global society, one in which the dignity of each individual shines with its inherent brilliance”.
In his Peace Proposal 2014, published on January 26, Ikeda offers specific suggestions focusing on three key areas critical to creating a sustainable global society: education for global citizenship; strengthening resilience in regions such as Asia and Africa by establishing regional cooperative mechanisms to reduce damage from extreme weather and disasters; and prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons.
Ikeda writes: “In light of the increasing incidence of (natural) disasters and extreme weather events in recent years (as well as severe humanitarian crises caused by international and domestic conflicts), there has been growing stress on the importance of enhancing the resilience of human societies – preparing for threats, managing crises and facilitating recovery.”
And this means: Realizing a hopeful future, rooted in people's natural desire to work together toward common goals and to sense progress toward those goals in a tangible way. Ikeda sees this is as “an integral aspect of humankind's shared project to create the future -- a project in which anyone anywhere can participate and which lays the solid foundations for a sustainable global society”.
Education for global citizenship
Ikeda regards education for global citizenship with a particular focus on young people crucial for a sustainable global society. With an eye on the summit scheduled to take place in September 2015 to adopt a new set of global development goals, widely referred to as sustainable development goals (SDGs). Ikeda urges that targets related to education be included among these: specifically, to achieve universal access to primary and secondary education, to eliminate gender disparity at all levels and to promote education for global citizenship.
An educational program for global citizenship, the SGI President says, should deepen understanding of the challenges facing humankind; it should identify the early signs of impending global problems in local phenomena, empowering people to take action; and it should foster the spirit of empathy and coexistence with an awareness that actions that profit one's own country might have a negative impact or be perceived as a threat by other countries.
Another area that in his view should be a focus of the SDGs along with education is empowering youth. He suggests three guidelines to be included in establishing the SDGs: for all states to strive to secure decent work for all; for young people to be able to actively participate in solving the problems facing society and the world; and for the expansion of youth exchanges to foster friendship and solidarity transcending national borders.
Youth exchanges, in particular, help nurture friendship and ties that serve as a bulwark against the collective psychologies of hatred and prejudice. As such, the SGI President is of the view that their inclusion in the SDGs would be of great significance.
Regional cooperation for resilience
Ikeda’s Peace Proposal 2014 also suggests the establishment of regional cooperative mechanisms to reduce damage from extreme weather and disasters, strengthening resilience in regions such as Asia and Africa.These would function alongside global measures developed under the UNFCCC, he says.
He calls for treating disaster preparedness, disaster relief and post-disaster recovery as an integrated process, and urges neighbouring countries to establish a system of cooperation for responding to disasters. “Through such sustained efforts to cooperate in strengthening resilience and recovery assistance, the spirit of mutual help and support can become the shared culture of the region,” says an official synopsis of Ikeda’s Peace Proposal 2014.
Ikeda suggests that the pioneering initiative for such regional cooperation be taken in Asia, a region that has been severely impacted by disasters. A successful model here will inspire collaboration in other regions, he adds. A foundation for this already exists in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which has a framework for discussing better cooperation. He calls on countries in the region to establish an Asia recovery resilience agreement, a framework drawing from the experience of the ARF.
The SGI President further recommends efforts to strengthen resilience through sister-city exchanges and cooperation, which provide an important basis for creating spaces of peaceful coexistence throughout the region. Currently, there are 354 sister-city agreements between Japan and China, 151 between Japan and South Korea and 149 between China and South Korea. Further, the Japan-China-South Korea Trilateral Local Government Conference has taken place annually since 1999 to further promote this kind of interaction.
Ikeda strongly proposes a Japan-China-South Korea summit to be held at the earliest to initiate dialogue toward this kind of cooperation, including cooperation on environmental problems. “The 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction to be held in Sendai, Japan, in March 2015, should serve as an impetus for further talks to explore the modalities of concretizing such cooperation,” says Ikeda.
For a world free of nuclear weapons
The SGI President argues: “Natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunami are characterized by the fact that, while it may be possible to lessen their impact, it is impossible to prevent their occurrence. This is in sharp contrast to the threat posed by nuclear weapons, whose use would wreak devastation on an even greater scale than that of natural disasters but which can be prevented and even eliminated through the clear exercise of political will by the world's governments.”
In light of this, Ikeda regards the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons backbone of a sustainable global society. He argues that the Final Document of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference and the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons held in Oslo, Norway, in March 2013 have helped encourage efforts by a growing number of governments to place the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons at the centre of all discussions of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
Since May 2012, these governments have repeatedly issued Joint Statements on this topic, and the fourth such statement, issued in October 2013, was signed by the governments of 125 states, including Japan and several other states under the nuclear umbrella of nuclear-weapon states.
Ikeda stresses the shared recognition that nuclear weapons fundamentally differ from other weapons, that they exist on the far side of a line which must not be crossed, and that it is unacceptable to inflict their catastrophic humanitarian consequences on any human being. This recognition, he says, holds the key to transcending the very idea that nuclear weapons can be used to realize national security objectives.
The SGI President reiterates his call for a nuclear abolition summit to be held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2015, the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombings of those cities. He hopes in particular that representatives of the countries that signed the Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, as well as representatives of global civil society and, above all, youthful citizens from throughout the world, will gather in a world youth summit for nuclear abolition to adopt a declaration affirming their commitment to bringing the era of nuclear weapons to an end.
Parallel with this, he makes two concrete proposals. The first is for a nuclear weapons non-use agreement. This, in his view, would be a natural outcome of placing the catastrophic humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons use at the centre of the deliberations for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, and it would be a means of advancing the implementation of Article VI of the NPT under which the nuclear-weapon states have committed to pursuing nuclear disarmament in good faith.
Ikeda argues that the establishment of a non-use agreement, in which the nuclear-weapon states pledge, as an obligation rooted in the core spirit of the NPT, not to use nuclear weapons against states parties to the treaty, would bring an enhanced sense of physical and psychological security to states that have relied on the nuclear umbrella of their allies, opening the way to security arrangements that are not dependent on nuclear weapons.
His second specific proposal is to utilize the process that is developing around the Joint Statements on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use to broadly enlist international public opinion and catalyse negotiations for the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons.
“It is important that we remember that even a non-use agreement is only a beachhead toward our ultimate goal – the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons. That goal will only be realized through accelerated efforts propelled by the united voices of global civil society.”
The SGI President points out that the world has “moved from an era in which the danger arose from the existence of conflict to one that is made dangerous by the continued existence of nuclear weapons”. He adds: “The intense confrontation of the Cold War provoked a sense of crisis, giving rise to a stance of mutual deterrence in which the two sides threatened each other with nuclear arsenals of unimaginable destructive capability.”
“In contrast, today it is the continued existence of nuclear weapons in itself that gives rise to insecurity, pushing new states to acquire nuclear weapons while leaving existing nuclear-weapon states convinced of the impossibility of relinquishing these arms.”
Yet another sound argument for doing away with nuclear weapons is that global economic crisis that began six years ago has eroded the fiscal standing of virtually every national government. And yet the global cost of maintaining these increasingly inutile weapons is an astonishing US$100 billion a year.
Subsequently, more and more people are coming to see nuclear weapons as a burden weighing down national finances rather than an asset that enhances national prestige. “In light of all these factors,” says Ikeda, “the motivation of the nuclear-weapon states to take proactive steps to reduce the threat posed by the continued existence of these weapons should increase.” [IDN-InDepthNews – March 19, 2014]