Our contemporary society is becoming increasingly fragmented as traditional family and community bonds break down. This is closely linked to a failure of communication, a breakdown of language as words become devalued and degraded.
Few have analyzed the vulnerability of language to abuse as incisively as the French philosopher Henri Bergson, who, guided by the axiom primum vivere (first, live!), warned consistently of Western philosophy's tendency to view everything through the lens of abstracted language and logic. Bergson's optimism can supply a catalyzing vision of a hopeful future, helping to redirect the course of modern civilization. This is the aim shared by all those who uphold the ideals of humanism.
The essence of the Buddhist humanism practiced by the members of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) lies in the insistence that human beings strive to exercise their spiritual capacities to the limit, coupled with an unshakable belief in their ability to do this. It is on the basis of this faith in the unlimited creative capacities of human beings that we must address the concrete issues that face our world today. In this, it is vital to ensure that our responses are not overshadowed by the clash of national interests, and the United Nations must play a pivotal role in ensuring this.
To this end, the UN needs to strengthen and solidify its collaborative endeavors with civil society, and in particular with nongovernmental organizations. Where there is an absence of international political leadership, civil society can step in to fill the gap, providing the energy and vision needed to move the world in a new and better direction.
A world free of nuclear weapons
Together, the people of the world should undertake three challenges toward the creation of a world free of nuclear weapons: We should establish the structures through which states possessing nuclear weapons can advance disarmament toward the goal of complete elimination; we should establish the means to prevent all development or modernization of nuclear weapons; and we should establish a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) comprehensively prohibiting them.
We need a fundamental revision of the framework for nuclear disarmament, such that the goal of multilateral negotiations is not confined to arms control but aims toward a clear vision of nuclear weapons abolition.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for the regular convening of a UN Security Council Summit on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. These summits should not be limited to the members of the Security Council: participation should also be opened to states that have chosen to relinquish their nuclear weapons or programs, as well as specialists in the field and NGO representatives.
This process should aim toward holding the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Bringing together national leaders as well as representatives of global civil society, this would be a nuclear abolition summit which could mark the effective end of the nuclear era.
Regarding the prohibition and prevention of nuclear weapons development, the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is key. Non-nuclear-weapon states and civil society organizations should work together to encourage those countries that have yet to do so to ratify this treaty. In addition, there could be interlocking agreements on bi- or multi-lateral levels by which groups of states, such as Egypt, Israel and Iran, would mutually commit to ratify the treaty. A similar arrangement based on the Six-Party Talks could be used to move toward the denuclearization of Northeast Asia.
Finally, we must build on recent developments to promote a Nuclear Weapons Convention that will outlaw nuclear weapons. We stand at a watershed moment: we have before us the potential to bring the era of nuclear weapons to an end through a treaty that comprehensively bans them. We must not allow this historic opportunity to pass.
The crucial thing is to arouse the awareness that, as a matter of human conscience, we can never permit the people of any country to fall victim to nuclear weapons. We must each make a personal decision and determination to build a new world free of nuclear weapons.
The accumulated weight of such choices made by individual citizens can be the basis for a Nuclear Weapons Convention. Such a convention could then represent a qualitative transformation from traditional international law--negotiated solely among governments--to a form of law that derives its ultimate authority from the expressed will of the world's peoples.
A culture of human rights
The term "a culture of human rights" was popularized in part through the UN Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004), and it refers to an ethos that encourages people to take the initiative to respect and protect the full spectrum of human rights and the dignity of life. This UN framework was realized largely through the work of NGOs. At its foundation lies the awareness that, alongside legal guarantees of human rights--and remedies in the event they are violated--it is necessary to foster a culture that prevents violations from occurring in the first place.
It is not because they have been codified into law that human rights have value. The spiritual wellspring that supports the law is found in the struggle to gain and realize our rights, the succession of courageous individuals who take up the challenge of extending and expanding them.
Drafting work continues on a UN declaration on human rights education and training. In order to gain the support of as many states as possible in the UN General Assembly, and to ensure that the declaration is implemented worldwide, the consistent backing of civil society is indispensable. To this end, the development of collaborative relations between the UN and civil society would be assisted by the formation of an international coalition of NGOs for human rights education, and by the creation of a standing specialized UN agency to promote human rights education.
There is also a need to focus on the role of youth in human rights education. The importance of youth in challenging seemingly intractable social realities and creating a new era cannot be overstated. One possibility would be to explore youth initiatives for human rights education on a regional basis, including opportunities for direct exchange. Such exchanges can promote the spirit of recognizing human commonalities and respecting diversity as a source of creativity and vitality.
Finally, dialogue among different faiths can greatly promote the construction of a culture of human rights. It is through real-life daily struggles and challenges that a genuine sensitivity to human rights is inculcated. The foundation for this must be the workings of conscience, a determination to behave at all times and in all situations in a manner that one can proudly affirm. And it is the original mission of religion to encourage the growth and development of such an ethos.
It is only when the norms of human rights are elevated to a personal vow that they become a source of inexhaustible energy for social transformation. The world's religions should conduct dialogue toward the shared goal of constructing a culture of human rights and strive together to foster in people the capacity to take the lead in this endeavor.
When each of us makes our irreplaceable contribution and we develop multiple overlapping networks of solidarity, we can construct a new era founded on respect for the inherent value and dignity of life. Each of the world's seemingly ordinary individuals can be a protagonist in the creation of this new era. Members of the SGI are determined to continue working in solidarity and partnership with those who share our aspirations toward this goal of a new global society of peace and coexistence.