Hiroshima G7 Youth Summit
Project Assistant, SCRAP Weapons
Project Assistant, SCRAP Weapons
SCRAP Weapons Project Assistants Vanessa Canola and James Luk attended the G7 Youth Summit hosted in Hiroshima this year. Read about their experiences below:
50 young leaders and activists, each contributing in their own way to raise awareness on the impact of nuclear weapons and on the importance of nuclear disarmament, had the opportunity to gather in Hiroshima, a city with enormous historical and emotional significance, for the G7 Youth Summit. This international get-together, organized by ICAN and Peace Boat together with other Japanese realities, was aimed to foster dialogues and intense conversations ahead of the actual G7 through panels, workshops, and lectures on the impacts of the detonations in the city, their medical consequences, the environmental effects of the nuclear tests conducted by the nuclear powers, and the failure of the concept of deterrence in the so-called Third Nuclear age. Being there, representing my country, Italy, was a precious and unique experience.
Among other significant activities and emotional experiences, I had the privilege of meeting Ms. Keiko Ogura, a “Hibakusha”, in Japanese “A-bomb survivor”, and advocate for peace, who graciously shared her personal story with us. At the time of the atomic detonation over her hometown, Hiroshima City, on August 6, 1945, she was 8 years old, a young girl full of dreams and hopes, enjoying a relatively normal childhood. At 8:15 am on that day, however, her life and the life of hundreds of thousands of people changed irreversibly after living unimaginable horrors that accompanied the detonation of ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’ in Japan. The blast wave and the intense heat that followed the launch of the first A-bomb exterminated entire buildings and infrastructure, caused fires to rage, and eliminated every sign of life in the area surrounding the epicenter. Fortunately, being her house located a few kilometers away from the epicenter, Keiko and her family survived the initial impact. Following the first moments of initial confusion, the devastating scenario became clear even for such a young girl that could have never imagined a tragedy of that magnitude: highly injured survivors, covered by burns, started desperately asking for food and water while moving from the city center to the outskirts, where she lived, to search for medical assistance; black rain, due to the high quantity of ash and dust, started pouring over their fresh wounds and immediately covered the soil; death was slowly spreading, and the cries of pain of the wounded became stronger and stronger, whose despair reached a level that was never predicted, nor by the politicians, nor by the scientists that contributed to the Manhattan Project. For Keiko and for the other Hibakushas, this scenario meant witnessing ‘hell on earth’.
The implications of the nuclear bombs, however, did not stop with the physical recovery of the victims. They became long-lasting and inter-generational since several Hibakushas faced psychological, economic, and social consequences that had a profound impact also on their daily lives after the tragedy. Building a new life, brick after brick, after the nuclear explosion was a concrete challenge, given the discrimination and the stigma they had to face even decades after the detonation of the bomb. Some of the Hibakushas, in fact, faced marriage-related discrimination since they could carry possible bomb-related diseases, such as leukemia or cancer, and poverty, which, for the non-victims, meant running both health and economic risks in endorsing the marriage.
Keiko, despite experiencing such a traumatic catastrophe, channeled her pain into a determination to spread awareness on the brutal impacts of nuclear bombs and the urgent need for peace. In conveying her message, she had the strength and the willpower to overcome language-related barriers and learn English at a rather mature age in order to share her story with the biggest possible audience, by delivering powerful speeches and interacting with the local and international community. Despite the atrocity, she never used words of resentment or hate. Hibakushas, in fact, were so brave and generous to convert despair, suffering, and brutal vivid memories into words of wisdom to spread their message to the international community: this humanitarian catastrophe should never occur again. Her resilience, compassion, and unwavering determination should serve as an inspiration to all those who strive for a world free from the horrors of nuclear weapons and should push the G7 leaders, whose intergovernmental forum will be hosted right in Hiroshima, to adopt tackle the issue of nuclear disarmament at the national and international level. The Hiroshima Youth 67 Summit gave me the confirmation that fighting for nuclear disarmament is both urgent and necessary. In conclusion, I will do everything possible to ensure that Keiko’s memory and hope never fade away despite the passing of time and, now, more than ever, I am determined to carry her lessons with me and share them with others, so that we may strive for a world where such devastation is never repeated.
James’ Reflections: Affected Voices at the Hiroshima G7 Youth Summit
Leading up to the 49th G7 Summit held in Hiroshima, Japan, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) organised the Hiroshima G7 Youth Summit that gathered 50 young people from G7 countries and beyond to advocate for their leaders to take concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament.
I had the privilege to be a youth delegate alongside fellow SCRAP Weapons Project Assistant Vanessa Canola. The summit provided opportunities to learn about the physical health, social trauma, and climate impacts of nuclear weapons through expert panels and the film 8:15 Hiroshima. We also learned about the international legal developments surrounding nuclear weapons, heard from communities in the Pacific affected by nuclear weapons testing, and visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Delegates also met with Ms. Keiko Ogura, a hibakusha—or atomic bomb survivor—to hear her testimony on the need to ban nuclear weapons. The summit culminated in a statement from youth delegates requesting G7 leaders to seriously listen to the voices of the hibakusha, observe the 2nd Meeting of State Parties (MSP) to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), and ensure the genuine involvement of marginalized communities–based on race, gender, economic status, and geographical borders–in the nuclear policy-making and disarmament process.
The summit was not only about learning from the past but also about building connections and ambitions for action in the future. The most memorable moment for me was when a youth delegate from the Pacific was asked if they considered themselves a hibakusha due to being affected by nuclear weapons testing. Puzzled, they paused, then answered “yes… I guess I would.”
At that moment, the summit in Hiroshima ceased to simply be a space where young people gathered to work towards disarmament, but where survivors of nuclear bombs and testing met and acknowledged their shared tragic and historic ties and worked together in education and advocacy. There have been 315 nuclear tests in the Pacific since Hiroshima and Nagasaki with little recognition, research, or support for victims. The Youth Statement urgently calls for immediate research and assessment into communities affected by nuclear weapons so victims can engage in the process of victim assistance and environmental remediation.
Discussions of nuclear weapons at the G7 cannot only focus on arms control or disarmament but must address the legacies of nuclear colonialism in the Pacific. Affected communities must be involved in the nuclear policy-making and disarmament process, particularly indigenous communities affected by nuclear weapons testing. As SCRAP Weapons works toward convening a fourth Special Session on Disarmament (SSOD), marginalised and indigenous voices are needed.