Respect for Hibakusha, and Hope in Younger Generations

August 24, 2023
Masako Toki

The following is an excerpt from Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

For too long, nuclear weapons narratives have been dominated by those who saw the mushroom cloud from afar or above. Or maybe just in photos, TV, or videos. Most absurdly, the voices of people who suffered the most under the mushroom cloud have often been marginalized.

Young woman looking at a sign

Erico Platt looks at the disarmament exhibition that she staged in 2022, “Three Quarters of a Century After Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Hibakusha—Brave Survivors Working for a Nuclear-Free World.” Photo by UNODA/Diane Barnes.

There have been numerous efforts to raise awareness of the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons among hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors), people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and more broadly, in the international community. One of the most important milestones came when the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference adopted a final document that included, for the first time “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.” Since then, the humanitarian initiative for nuclear disarmament has been gaining momentum.

Three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons contributed to the start of the negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and to adoption of the treaty. Through this process, a wide range of civil society members, along with like-minded governments, energized the humanitarian initiatives and tenaciously supported bringing humanitarian dimensions to nuclear weapons policy discussion.

The adoption of the TPNW has brought a glimmer of hope to nuclear disarmament advocates, although they are fully aware that this is a first step of the long process. Still, this is considered to be one of very few positive developments in recent nuclear disarmament efforts. The world is currently moving backward on nuclear disarmament. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused unspeakable human suffering and raised the risk of nuclear war. Today, nuclear threats are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War.

Continue reading at Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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