DISARMAMENT: Mayors Gather at U.N. to Lobby Against Nukes

Published on Inter Press Service IPS, by Matthew Berger, May 9, 2009.

UNITED NATIONS, May 6 (IPS) – The issue of nuclear disarmament being discussed with new vigour in the halls of the U.N. as the third and final preparatory committee leading up to the 2010 review conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) meets over the next two weeks.

Mayors for Peace, an international network of local officials, held an event Tuesday as part of the NPT preparatory sessions to promote its 2020 Vision Campaign calling for the abolition of all nuclear weapons by the year 2020.

They are just one voice of many calling for concrete, time-based disarmament, but they hold the unique position of representing the world’s cities – the potential targets of nuclear attacks … 

… “Mayors have to justify just travelling to conferences like this when there are so many pressing issues at home, but I really think this is a pressing issue of the day,” he said.

Akiba summed up the rationale for the role of cities: “It is the cities that suffer the result of nuclear catastrophes.”

Cities also have a key role in providing their citizens opportunities to express their support for disarmament. Akiba mentioned a specific baseball game in Hiroshima dedicated to Mayors for Peace in which all the fans held up signs in support of their disarmament campaign.

However, Duarte cautioned, “The most important single factor that will influence this outcome is, as always, the political will of nation-states.”

This August will mark 64 years since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the effects are still being felt. Yuki, the 12-year-old granddaughter of a bombing survivor, spoke to the gathering: “When I was eight I was attacked by a strange stomachache, and was in the hospital for two weeks.”

Her grandmother then said, “Rather than waiting for other countries to give up their nuclear weapons before we give up ours, we must have the courage to take action. What I want people to understand is that what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is not in the past but an opportunity for the future.”

The NPT requires a review conference every five years to evaluate the implementation of the treaty’s articles. The final count of the Cities Appeal signatures will take place next year at the 2010 NPT Review Conference at U.N. headquarters in New York. (full text).

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