On March 2nd, Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima and President of Mayors for Peace from 1999 to 2011, launched a petition on the Change.org website addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and entitled “Do NOT use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine conflict – Message from Japan.”
The central concern was that nuclear weapons should not be used again. As the Hibakusha (survivors of the US nuclear attack on Hiroshima) have declared, “No one should ever have to suffer as we have.” They describe the experience of being under the nuclear mushroom cloud as “Hell on Earth.”
The petition calls on “President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders to immediately declare the disuse of nuclear weapons in this conflict.” It also calls on the nuclear-armed countries to adopt no-first use policies to prevent nuclear war anywhere in the world, to be followed by the relinquishing of nuclear deterrence policies themselves in order to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.
In the petition, former Mayor Akiba asks the Japan Prime Minister to convey the experience and message of Hibakusha to Russia and other members of the UN Security Council in order to ensure they understand what it means to use a nuclear weapon.
“Japan’s current Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, who was elected from Hiroshima is in the position to speak for the Hibakusha,” says the appeal. “Now is the time for PM Kishida to take a stand and attend the United Nations Security Council meeting and tell the reality of the atomic bombing, and convey the cry of the many Hibakusha who died, repeating in their death beds “No one else should go through our suffering.” “
Mayor Akiba was motivated to launch the petition when he saw and shared the intense distress of Hibakusha following President Putin’s threat — which was sandwiched between two nuclear exercises — to “anyone who would consider interfering from the outside: if you do, you will face consequences greater than any of you have faced in history.”
Within days, NoFirstUse Global brought this signature drive to the attention of its participating organizations and its newsletter subscribers, and followed up with a blog article NoFirstUse Global interviews Mayor Akiba on his appeal: Do NOT use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine conflict.
Change.org decided to feature the petition prominently, and the number of signatories mounted quickly.
After three weeks over 90,000 people had endorsed. Mayor Akiba appealed, through change.org, to the petition’s many signatories to help push it over the line to 100,000. Change.org also asked for donations to promote the petition. Some 8,500 people responded to this appeal using social media to reach out to potential signatories and/or making donations to help the promotion.
Within days of this follow-up appeal, the 100,000 mark was reached. Signatures continue to pour in. As we go to press, the count is approaching 110,000. Readers who have not yet signed are urged to do so, and those who have signed, or now do, are requested to use their social media platforms to promote the petition further.
As described in his NoFirstUse Global interview, Mayor Akiba is now sending the petition to President Putin, all the other nuclear-armed states’ leaders, and the Prime Minister of Japan, Kishida. This is crucial, since most of the other nuclear powers, as well as the NATO alliance, maintain nuclear-use policies that include options to initiate nuclear warfare; India and China being the exceptions.
The petition calls for the renunciation by all of such options and the adoption of no-first-use pledges. In the interview, Akiba argues that once the nuclear powers have taken this relatively easy step, the final step to establishing a nuclear-weapon-free world will be attainable. NoFirstUse Global will report on responses Mayor Akiba receives and further developments.