Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
History & Philosophy
Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
Section eight of ten of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s 2016 peace proposal, “Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace.”
The first of these relates to strengthening the institutional framework to prevent the proliferation of conventional weapons, which exacerbate humanitarian crises and contribute to incidents of terrorism around the world.
Each year, an unconscionable number of lives are lost due to the influx of small arms into conflict areas.
The Arms Trade Treaty, which entered into force on December 24, 2014, seeks to regulate the trade in conventional weapons ranging from small arms—often referred to as “the real weapons of mass destruction”—to tanks and missiles. It has only been ratified by seventy-nine states so far, however, and no agreement has been reached on key issues such as a reporting mechanism on international arms transfers.
The First Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty was held in Cancún, Mexico, in August 2015. The participants failed to reach consensus on core questions such as whether to make reports available to the public and which arms should be subject to reporting. related article Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace All people have the right to live in happiness. The prime objective of our movement is to forge an expanding solidarity of ordinary citizens committed to protecting that right and, in this way, to rid the world of needless suffering. Our activities in support of the UN are a natural and necessary expression of this.
I have repeatedly called for the regulation of the arms trade, starting with my 1999 peace proposal, because I view it as an essential challenge in the effort to build a peaceful world in this century.
The deepening refugee crisis illustrates the urgent need to use the Arms Trade Treaty to put an end to the proliferation of conventional weapons. Their widespread availability contributes to the entrenchment and prolongation of conflict, driving large numbers of people from their homes. Even after fighting has ceased, the danger that conflicts will reignite remains, deterring people from returning home.
In particular, small arms can be easily carried and operated, facilitating the forced enlistment of children as combatants. There are estimated to be over 300,000 child soldiers around the world, facing physical injury, psychological trauma and death. 
Further, it is imperative that the international trade in conventional weapons be strictly regulated in order to prevent the spread of terrorism. The global response to terrorism can be strengthened significantly through synergies between the Arms Trade Treaty and the numerous antiterrorism conventions that have been established to date.
Given all the harmful impacts of the proliferation of small arms, it is urgent that the international community use the Arms Trade Treaty to disrupt the cycles of hatred and violence around the world.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development counts illicit financial and arms flows among factors giving rise to violence, insecurity and injustice; significantly reducing them by 2030 is one of the targets. I urge states to promptly ratify the Arms Trade Treaty as evidence of their commitment to this goal.
Full public disclosure, including the volume of arms transactions, would contribute to enhanced transparency and the more effective functioning of the Treaty.
The second area of disarmament I would like to address concerns the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons.
Last year—the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was held at UN Headquarters in New York, but closed without reaching consensus.
Since the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference referenced the inhumane nature of any use of nuclear weapons and the need to comply with International Humanitarian Law, there has been a global rise of concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and three international conferences on this subject have been held.
This makes it all the more regrettable that the chasm between the nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states could not be bridged at the 2015 Review Conference, and that the NPT member states were unable to reach a consensus at this historic juncture.
Hope still remains, however, thanks to a number of noteworthy developments. These include:
We must leverage these new developments to create roadmaps to a world without nuclear weapons and to initiate concrete action toward its realization.
On January 6 this year, North Korea conducted a nuclear test, further heightening concerns within the international community about the threat of nuclear proliferation.
If nuclear weapons were to be used in a hostile exchange in any corner of the world, the impact—whether in terms of the number of lives lost or the number of people who would suffer aftereffects—staggers the imagination.
In the world today, there are more than 15,000 nuclear weapons. Their use could render meaningless in an instant all of humankind’s efforts to resolve global problems.
Taking the example of the refugee crisis, the consequences of a nuclear explosion would cross national borders, in all likelihood creating a humanitarian crisis of far greater proportion than the current 60 million refugees. Hundreds of millions of people might find themselves fleeing for safety. Likewise, no matter how much effort people may put into preventing soil degradation, a nuclear explosion would pollute the soil—one centimeter of which might take as much as a thousand years to form—over vast expanses of Earth.
Recent research warns of the devastating impact of even a geographically limited nuclear exchange on the global ecology; the impact on the world’s climate would undermine food production, resulting in a “nuclear famine.”
To date, efforts to fight poverty and improve public health through the MDGs have rendered meaningful achievements, and this work will be carried on through the follow-up framework, the SDGs, in such areas as disaster risk reduction and sustainable cities. The existence of nuclear weapons threatens to negate all of this.
What then is the point of national security guaranteed by nuclear weapons, the use of which would inevitably produce catastrophic consequences and result in immense suffering and sacrifice throughout the world? What exactly is it that is protected by a security regime premised on the possibility of inflicting irreparable damage and devastation on vast numbers of people? Is this not a system in which the true objective of national security—protecting people and their lives—has in fact been forsaken?
In 1903, at the outset of the phase of global military competition that continues to this day, Soka Gakkai founding president Makiguchi argued that when a given mode of competition has proven ineffectual in achieving its ends, this drives a transformation in the form and nature of human competition.
“When hostilities continue for a long period of time, various aspects of domestic life are affected, leading inevitably to the exhaustion of national strength. Such losses cannot be compensated by what is gained through war.” 
The limitations of military competition that Makiguchi noted have become undeniably evident over the course of two world wars and in the nuclear competition that started during the Cold War and persists even today.
As the humanitarian impact and the limited military effectiveness of nuclear weapons have become more apparent, so has the fact that they are essentially unusable. Having reached the limits of military competition, we can now see signs of the emergence of a new mode of international competition, one centered around mutual striving toward humanitarian objectives.
One example of this can be found in the various contributions made by the International Monitoring System (IMS) established with the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996. The CTBT has yet to be ratified by eight of the countries whose ratification is required for it to enter into force, but the IMS, launched by the CTBTO Preparatory Commission to detect any nuclear explosion worldwide, is already in operation.
Its core function was again demonstrated in the rapid detection of the seismic waves and radiation from the recent North Korean nuclear test. In addition, the global IMS network has been used to gather data about natural disasters and the impact of climate change. Examples of this include: providing information on undersea earthquakes to tsunami early-warning centers; real-time surveillance of volcanic eruptions to enable civil aviation authorities to issue timely warnings; and tracking large-scale weather events and the collapse of ice shelves. The system has been compared to a giant Earth stethoscope.
As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has noted, “Even before entering into force, the CTBT is saving lives.”  Indeed, the Treaty and its verification regime, originally designed to restrain the nuclear arms race and nuclear proliferation, have become essential humanitarian safeguards, protecting the lives of large numbers of people.
It has been twenty years since this Treaty was adopted. I call on the remaining eight states to ratify the CTBT as soon as possible in order to enhance its effectiveness and ensure that nuclear weapons are never again tested on our planet.
We must of course accelerate efforts toward nuclear disarmament and abolition. At the same time, we must further develop the kind of activities that have grown from the CTBT in order to build momentum toward a world that gives highest priority to humanitarian objectives.
In September 1957, amidst deepening Cold War antagonism and the escalation of the nuclear arms race, my mentor Josei Toda issued a declaration calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons:
“Although a movement calling for a ban on the testing of atomic or nuclear weapons has arisen around the world, it is my wish to go further, to attack the problem at its root. I want to expose and rip out the claws that lie hidden in the very depths of such weapons.” 
Even as he expressed his sympathy with the earnest voices of people around the world calling for a ban on nuclear testing, Toda went further and stressed that a genuine solution is only possible when we overcome the disregard for life that underlies a system of national security premised on the suffering and sacrifice of countless ordinary citizens.
What my mentor referred to as the “claws” hidden in the depths of nuclear weapons is the toxic way of thinking that permeates contemporary civilization: namely, the pursuit of one’s objectives by any means, of one’s security and national interest at the expense of the people of other countries, and of one’s immediate goals in disregard of the impact on future generations. With his words echoing in my heart, I have worked toward resolving the nuclear arms issue, believing that success in this challenge can set the world in a new and more humane direction.
38 See UN SG Envoy on Youth, “4 out of 10 Child Soldiers Are Girls.”
39 (trans. from) Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu, 2:395.
40 Ban, “Video Message to the Conference.”
41 (trans. from) Toda, Toda Josei zenshu, 4:565.