The world today is faced with a complex set of urgent crises that can only be described as unprecedented in the history of humankind. In addition to the increasing incidence every passing year of extreme weather events that reflect the worsening problem of climate change, the onslaught of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to threaten social and economic stability throughout the world.
Nevertheless, even as the dark clouds of this crisis continue to shroud the world, progress in efforts to build a global society committed to peace and humane values has not halted. Examples of important progress include: the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) this past January 22; universal ratification by the 187 member states of the International Labour Organization (ILO) of a convention outlawing the worst forms of child labor; and eradication of wild polio in Africa.
With the world still reeling from the impacts of the pandemic, I would like to explore three approaches that I believe are required in order to overcome this complex crisis and generate solid momentum for the challenge of building a global society of peace and humane values in the twenty-first century.
The first is the determination never to leave behind those struggling in the depths of adversity, who find themselves isolated as our sense of crisis becomes increasingly normalized. Even as we work to develop a comprehensive response, we must always prioritize addressing the suffering of each of the many individuals whose lives are directly impacted.
Second is the need for countries to transcend their differences and come together in solidarity to overcome this crisis. The World Health Organization (WHO) along with governmental and civil society partners has established the COVAX facility for the global procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, with the aim of creating systems to ensure prompt and equitable access to vaccines for all countries. Japan was an early participant in COVAX, and I call on the Japanese government to make efforts to encourage the active participation of countries that have yet to join.
What is needed is a human security approach, in which countries look beyond their immediate interests to work together to reduce and eliminate the threats facing all people.
Third is the need to prevent the spread of misinformation regarding COVID-19 that can fuel discrimination against those who have been infected. This must be part of the effort to construct a culture of human rights in which no one’s dignity is denied.
For its part, the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) has carried out activities in support of human rights education with a view to completing the circle of an inclusive society, working together with all those with whom we share this world. Strengthening efforts to stop the spread of malicious misinformation and discrimination and to dispel the dark clouds of fear and anxiety seeded by the COVID-19 crisis, we must now rise to the challenge of anchoring a vibrant culture of human rights on our shared determination that no one’s dignity ever be denied.
International guidelines for combating infectious diseases
I would also like to make specific proposals in three main issue areas toward the construction of a global society of peace and humane values.
The first relates to strengthening global governance and establishing global guidelines for combating infectious diseases.
I would like to propose the holding of a high-level meeting at the UN to address COVID-19 as a means to further strengthen networking and collaboration among the world’s governments. With a view to the possibility of new infectious diseases emerging in the future, I would further propose that international guidelines governing pandemic response be adopted at such a meeting.
I would also like to propose the holding of a “beyond COVID-19” youth summit, to discuss the kind of world young people would like to see in the aftermath of this crisis. This summit could utilize online platforms, thus enabling the participation of many young people from diverse backgrounds.
Last year, the UN launched the UN75 initiative—an ambitious attempt to listen to the voices of the world’s people through surveys and dialogue. Of the suggestions detailed in the UN75 Report, I would especially like to highlight the idea of establishing a UN youth council with the role of communicating to the UN leadership ideas and proposals developed from the perspective of young people.
The TPNW—a turning point in human history
The second issue of concern on which I would like to offer specific proposals is the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons.
Removing the grave danger posed by these weapons is at the heart of both the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which entered into force in 1970, and the TPNW, which just entered into force this month.
The entry into force of the TPNW marks the start of an era in which the continued existence of nuclear weapons on Earth has been stipulated as unacceptable by a legally binding instrument.
Attention now focuses on the first meeting of States Parties of the TPNW. Since any state is welcome to attend, a major focus will be on how to involve as many nuclear-weapon and nuclear-dependent states as possible in the deliberations. As the only country in the world to have experienced a nuclear attack in wartime, Japan should pave the way for the nuclear-dependent states by announcing its intention to participate.
Further, I would like to propose that a forum for discussing the relationship between nuclear weapons and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) be held during the first meeting of States Parties. The theme of nuclear weapons and the SDGs can thus be positioned as an issue concerning all states and serve as the impetus to engage as many nuclear-weapon and nuclear-dependent states as possible.
I would also like to make two proposals to the NPT Review Conference scheduled for August this year: that there be a discussion on the true meaning of security in light of crises such as climate change and the pandemic; and that the final document include a pledge of non-use of nuclear weapons and a pledge to freeze all nuclear-weapon development in the lead-up to the 2025 Review Conference.
The TPNW opens a path for a nuclear-weapon state to become a State Party by submitting a plan for the elimination of its nuclear-weapon program. Such participation by nuclear-dependent and nuclear-weapon states in the TPNW could be facilitated under the NPT regime through embarking on multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament undergirded by pledges of non-use and a freeze on nuclear-weapon development. I call for efforts to link the operation of these two treaties in ways that will put us on the path to ending the nuclear age.
Rebuilding life in a post-COVID world
The third issue area where I would like to offer proposals pertains to the reconstruction of economies and lives disrupted by the COVID-19 emergency.
The magnitude of the COVID-19 economic shock has thrown many millions of people into financial devastation. This has driven home the urgency of strengthening access to social protection systems, a goal also supported by the members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
I hope that OECD members will take the lead in efforts to realize all SDG targets related to ensuring universal social protection measures. I also hope that they will work together to establish and implement global policy standards for rebuilding economies and livelihoods devastated by the COVID-19 crisis. One direction this could take is the development of new industries and the creation of job opportunities through transition to a green economy, scaling back military spending and allocating the resources saved to strengthening social protection systems.
Further, OECD members have a significant role to play in enacting ambitious policies that enhance social resilience. We are living in an era in which we need to adopt a comprehensive and simultaneous “multi-hazard approach” to threats and challenges, with a clear understanding of the systemic nature of risk, as advocated by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Drawing upon the network of collaborative relations we have developed to date, as part of civil society, the SGI is wholeheartedly committed to working toward 2030 with like-minded people and organizations to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs and to realize a global society of peace and humane values.