by Daisaku Ikeda
President, Soka Gakkai International
To commemorate January 26, the anniversary of the founding of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), I would like to offer thoughts on how we can redirect the currents of the twenty-first century toward greater hope, solidarity and peace in order to construct a sustainable global society, one in which the dignity of each individual shines with its inherent brilliance.
In light of the increasing incidence of natural disasters and extreme weather events in recent years, as well as severe humanitarian crises caused by international and domestic conflicts, there has been growing stress on the importance of enhancing the resilience of human societies. In the broadest sense, resilience can be thought of in terms of realizing a hopeful future, rooted in people's natural desire to work together toward common goals.
Reforming and opening up the inner capacities of our lives can enable effective reform and empowerment on a global scale. This is what we in the SGI call human revolution. Its focus is empowerment that brings forth the limitless possibilities of each individual. The steady accumulation of changes on the individual and community level paves the path for humanity to surmount the common issues we face.
The challenge of value creation is that of linking the micro and the macro in ways that reinforce positive transformation on both planes.
The Buddhist philosophy embraced by members of the SGI urges people to live with a sense of purposefulness that can be expressed as a commitment to fulfilling a profound pledge or vow. It encourages people to regard their immediate surroundings as the arena for fulfilling their mission in life, even when beset by great difficulties, and to aspire to create personal narratives that will be a source of enduring hope.
Education for global citizenship
I would like to offer specific proposals focusing on three key areas critical to the effort to create a sustainable global society. The first relates to education with a particular focus on young people.
A summit slated to take place in September 2015 will adopt a new set of global development goals, widely referred to as sustainable development goals (SDGs). I urge that targets related to education be included among these: specifically, to achieve universal access to primary and secondary education, to eliminate gender disparity at all levels and to promote education for global citizenship.
An educational program for global citizenship should deepen understanding of the challenges facing humankind; it should identify the early signs of impending global problems in local phenomena, empowering people to take action; and it should foster the spirit of empathy and coexistence with an awareness that actions that profit one's own country might have a negative impact or be perceived as a threat by other countries.
Another area that should be a focus of the SDGs along with education is empowering youth. Specifically, I suggest the following guidelines be included in establishing the SDGs:
- For all states to strive to secure decent work for all;
- For young people to be able to actively participate in solving the problems facing society and the world; and
- For the expansion of youth exchanges to foster friendship and solidarity transcending national borders.
Youth exchanges, in particular, help nurture friendship and ties that serve as a bulwark against the collective psychologies of hatred and prejudice. As such, their inclusion in the SDGs would be of great significance.
Second, I would like to propose the establishment of regional cooperative mechanisms to reduce damage from extreme weather and disasters, strengthening resilience in regions such as Asia and Africa.
Disaster preparedness, disaster relief and post-disaster recovery should be treated as an integrated process. To this end, I would like to suggest that neighboring countries establish a system of cooperation for responding to disasters. Through such sustained efforts to cooperate in strengthening resilience and recovery assistance, the spirit of mutual help and support can become the shared culture of the region.
I urge that the pioneering initiative for such regional cooperation be taken in Asia, a region that has been severely impacted by disasters. A successful model here will inspire collaboration in other regions. A foundation for this already exists in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which has a framework for discussing better cooperation. I call on countries in the region to establish an Asia recovery resilience agreement, a framework drawing from the experience of the ARF.
Further, efforts to strengthen resilience through sister-city exchanges and cooperation provide an important basis for creating spaces of peaceful coexistence throughout the region. I strongly urge that a Japan-China-South Korea summit be held at the earliest opportunity to initiate dialogue toward this kind of cooperation, including cooperation on environmental problems.
Abolition of nuclear weapons
The third area I would like to discuss regards proposals for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons.
The Final Document of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference and the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons held in Oslo, Norway, last year have helped encourage efforts by a growing number of governments to place the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons at the center of all discussions of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.
Since May 2012, these governments have repeatedly issued Joint Statements on this topic, and the fourth such statement, issued in October 2013, was signed by the governments of 125 states, including Japan and several other states under the nuclear umbrella of nuclear-weapon states.
The shared recognition that nuclear weapons fundamentally differ from other weapons, that they exist on the far side of a line which must not be crossed, and that it is unacceptable to inflict their catastrophic humanitarian consequences on any human being—this recognition holds the key to transcending the very idea that nuclear weapons can be used to realize national security objectives.
I have repeatedly called for a nuclear abolition summit to be held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki next year in 2015, the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombings of those cities. Specifically, I hope that representatives of the countries that signed the Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, as well as representatives of global civil society and, above all, youthful citizens from throughout the world, will gather in a world youth summit for nuclear abolition to adopt a declaration affirming their commitment to bringing the era of nuclear weapons to an end.
Concurrent with this, I would like to make two concrete proposals. The first is for a nuclear weapons non-use agreement. This would be a natural outcome of placing the catastrophic humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons use at the center of the deliberations for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, and it would be a means of advancing the implementation of Article VI of the NPT under which the nuclear-weapon states have committed to pursuing nuclear disarmament in good faith.
The establishment of a non-use agreement, in which the nuclear-weapon states pledge, as an obligation rooted in the core spirit of the NPT, not to use nuclear weapons against states parties to the treaty, would bring an enhanced sense of physical and psychological security to states that have relied on the nuclear umbrella of their allies, opening the way to security arrangements that are not dependent on nuclear weapons.
The 2016 G8 Summit is scheduled to be held in Japan. An expanded summit dedicated to realizing a world without nuclear weapons could be held in conjunction with this and would provide an opportune venue for making a public pledge to early signing.
My second specific proposal is to utilize the process that is developing around the Joint Statements on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use to broadly enlist international public opinion and catalyze negotiations for the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons.
It is important that we remember that even a non-use agreement is only a beachhead toward our ultimate goal—the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons. That goal will only be realized through accelerated efforts propelled by the united voices of global civil society.
The members of the SGI are determined to continue our efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons and all other causes of misery on Earth, to further our efforts for value creation, working with the world's youth and all those who are committed to a hopeful vision for the future.
A Forum for Peace: Daisaku Ikeda's Proposals to the UN, a book containing highlights of 30 years of Ikeda's peace proposals, has been published by I.B. Tauris in January 2014, with a foreword by Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN.