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The following is the SGI’s statement to the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, held in Geneva from April 23 to May 4, 2018. Describing nuclear weapons as incompatible with the quest for human freedom and dignity, the statement urges consideration of the congruity between the goals of the recent Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and the commitment of States under the NPT to pursue nuclear disarmament.
As an organization whose activities for a nuclear-weapon-free world are rooted in the Buddhist philosophy of respect for all life, the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) wishes to submit the following statement to the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). We do so in hopes of contributing to the Preparatory Committee’s important deliberations at this crucial juncture.
In her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, Setsuko Thurlow concisely expressed the essence of the nuclear issue: Humanity and nuclear weapons cannot coexist. This means, in the simplest terms, that we must choose: nuclear weapons or humanity, where humanity points to more than just the continued physical existence of our species, but also to our ability to live in ways that can be identified as humane and toward which all societies have continued to strive.
Nuclear weapons have not only threatened humanity’s physical survival, they have profoundly impeded our individual and shared quest for humanity in this most essential sense.
The imperative to protect the freedom and dignity of all people is rooted in the recognition that each of us is inherently precious and irreplaceable. The continued existence of nuclear weapons and the growing threat of their use embody a diametrically opposed view of humanity: that we lack inherent value and are ultimately expendable. As such they are incompatible with the quest for human freedom and dignity and the international human rights system to which that quest has given rise.
In the wake of the unprecedented destruction of World War II, “freedom from fear” was declared as a crucial, necessary element of our birthright as humans. Nuclear weapons, predicated on fear, have constituted a direct and constant assault on that freedom. We know that, through technical failures, miscalculation and misapprehension, nuclear deterrence has verged on failure many times since 1945. As people with deep, direct experience of the nuclear weapons regime have noted, we have avoided nuclear disaster more through luck than design, and our luck cannot be expected to hold indefinitely.
Similarly, the enormous cost of nuclear weapons, with the nuclear-weapon states now allocating trillions of dollars for modernization, continues to undermine another consensus ideal of the post-World War II world: freedom from want. As the world rallies toward the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, we simply cannot afford the wasteful folly of nuclear weapons, either in their present or their future modernized forms.
Perhaps the most pernicious assault nuclear weapons wreak on our humanity lies in the destructive fallacy that we have no choice but to submit to products of our own minds, to the apparent imperatives of our own technological creations.
In this sense, the struggle to eliminate nuclear weapons represents a crucial opportunity for humankind to recover long-threatened qualities of agency, dignity, freedom and solidarity. These quintessentially human qualities can be effectively deployed in the resolution of the pressing, planet-wide challenges we face.
We believe that this commitment not simply to survival, but to human freedom and dignity, animated the adoption of the NPT in the years following the Cuban Missile Crisis and under the shadow of the existential terror of Cold War military competition.
The adoption, in July of last year, of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) by 122 governments demonstrated the strong will for the elimination of nuclear weapons that exists within the international community.
It is crucial that the underlying commonality of purpose as well as the shared commitments and prohibitions between the NPT and the TPNW be recognized and affirmed.
This conference, the first venue for debate and deliberation with the participation of non-nuclear-weapon, nuclear-weapon and nuclear-dependent states to be organized since the adoption of the TPNW, represents an excellent opportunity to consider the deep compatibilities between the goals and commitments of the NPT and the TPNW.
We urge all participants to engage in constructive debate toward the goal of a world free from nuclear weapons and to support the signing, ratification and early entry into force of the TPNW.
The TPNW did not arise in isolation from the NPT. The 2010 NPT Review Conference expressed, with the support of all States parties, a renewed awareness of the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons use, and it was this awareness that accelerated momentum for a prohibition treaty.
The TPNW, for its part, gives concrete form to the nuclear disarmament obligations under Article VI of the NPT and promotes their good-faith fulfillment.
Even if some States parties to the NPT do not recognize the TPNW as the nuclear disarmament treaty they have committed to produce under Article VI, they should acknowledge the overlapping prohibitions in the two treaties. There is no reason to believe such overlapping prohibitions, especially in treaties sharing the same ultimate end of a world free from nuclear weapons, would dilute their normative and practical impact; they can and do stand in a relation of mutual reinforcement.
In this light, we encourage governments not yet supporting the TPNW to make public specific TPNW prohibitions to which they are ready to commit.
The prohibition on the transfer of nuclear weapons, for example, or against assisting other states in acquiring nuclear weapons, are among those to which the nuclear-weapon states should be able to commit.
Likewise, nuclear-dependent states should consider the prohibition on using or threatening to use nuclear weapons and against assisting, encouraging or inducing such acts in light of their respective security policies.
The catastrophic humanitarian consequences that will follow any use of nuclear weapons give rise to the imperative that they never be used again, under any circumstances. The challenge of nuclear disarmament concerns not only the nuclear-weapon states; it is in the interest of all States parties and fully engages the interests of civil society.
Just as the elimination of nuclear weapons provides the opportunity for humankind to free itself from thralldom to technology, the fulfillment of the long-standing NPT obligation to disarm offers states an opportunity to recover and embody the autonomy expressed in the ideal of sovereignty; that is, to manifest autonomy over circumstance and in fulfilling their own freely undertaken commitments.
1. Reexamine the meaning and role of nuclear weapons, the product of a Cold War past, in light of present-day political discourse that normalizes the possibility of their use and contemplated technical measures that could lower the threshold to such use, as well as the recently renewed understanding of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear detonations.
2. Engage in constructive dialogue to produce concrete results in line with an ultimate objective of a world free from nuclear weapons encapsulated in the NPT, recognizing that the TPNW is an effort to fulfill the obligation of all States parties to the NPT to pursue and bring to a conclusion negotiations culminating in the elimination of nuclear weapons.
3. Continue to heed the voices of civil society, especially those of the world’s hibakusha, so that the NPT process will have a consistently human focus; to declare the shared commitment of the world’s people that the suffering endured by the hibakusha must never be repeated.