Nov 22-24, 2003
Hiromichi Umebayashi, Founder and President of Peace Depot
Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator for the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament
Suzuki Tsunei MP
Senator Douglas Roche (Canada), Chair of the Middle Powers Initiative
Keith Locke MP (Green, New Zealand)
Suzuki Tsunei MP (LDP, Japan)
Masaharu Nakagawa MP (DPJ, Japan)
The Forum for Parliamentarians for Nuclear Disarmament was opened by Hiromichi Umebayashi, founder and president of Peace Depot. Mr Umebayashi spoke of the aim of the forum to generate dialogue between parliamentarians from different countries and between parliamentarians and civil society. Speaking of the strong public support for disarmament in Japan, Mr Umebayashi hoped that be bridging the gap between parliamentarians and civil society, greater progress on nuclear disarmament could occur.
Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator for the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), spoke of the important role of parliamentarians to shape policy, build government accountability and ensure disarmament obligations are implemented. He introduced the forum to the PNND, an international network of over 250 parliamentarians in 40 countries helping parliamentarians engage in nuclear disarmament issues and in international disarmament arenas.
Canadian Senator Douglas Roche, chair of the Middle Powers Initiative which established the PNND, spoke about the power of engagement between civil society and parliamentarians, giving the positive example of the Canadian nuclear policy consultation process which occurred following the International Court of Justice's 1996 decision on the illegality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. The consultation involving the Canadian Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and a series of roundtables in 18 cities across Canada including a cross section of civil society, successfully moved the government to initiate a NATO nuclear policy review process. Senator Roche also spoke about the importance of the New Agenda Coalition program for nuclear disarmament - that proposed by Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden - and the roles parliamentarians could play in supporting this at the United Nations and at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
New Zealand MP Keith Locke spoke of the vital role New Zealand parliamentarians played in New Zealand becoming a nuclear weapons free zone. He also spoke about the role parliamentarians can play to establish a southern hemisphere and adjacent areas nuclear weapon free zone.
Mr Tsuneo Suzuki, Japanese member of parliament (LDP) and President of the Japan section of PNND, reported on the formation of PNND in Japan in July 2002 and announced that he would be inviting new parliamentary members to join PNND once the next Diet session is opened. He spoke about pressures within the Japanese parliament to amend the peace articles in the Japanese constitution and how it is important to maintain the spirit of peace in the constitution. He noted the importance of the New Agenda Coalition program of action and said that he would encourage parliamentary support for this.
Mr Masaharu Nakagawa, Japanese member of parliament (Democratic Party) spoke about the importance of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and about steps that should be taken for nuclear disarmament. He said that Japan should work together with other middle power countries in the United Nations in order to increase influence on the nuclear weapons states. In particular, he recommended that Japan should support the New Agenda Coalition and that the NAC program should be discussed in the Diet. He also expressed support for a North East Asian nuclear weapon free zone.
There were a number of questions and comments from the audience including from Hideo Tsuchiyama, Chairman of the Organising Committee of the Nagasaki Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, and from Masami Imagawa, a former member of the Diet.
The topics included depleted uranium, sub-critical tests, participation in the war against Iraq, parliamentary involvement in UN resolutions, parliamentary involvement in regional security particularly concerning North Korea, the New Agenda Coalition's program for disarmament and the relationship between Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament and the Mayors for Peace campaign.
In the responses, Mr Nakagawa emphasized that there is considerable opposition to the unilateralist approach of the United States and that the tide which has until now being very negative towards unilateralism and coalition actions, is now starting to change towards multilateralism and international law.
Mr Suzuki noted that Japan has the potential to develop nuclear weapons but that there is strong opposition to this. He noted that the Diet needs to discuss nuclear weapons issues more, particularly proposals for nuclear disarmament such as the New Agenda proposals.
Mr Locke noted that US public supports bold disarmament efforts of other countries and in the case of New Zealand, helped to ensure that threats of trade and political repercussions from the US government against New Zealand's adoption of a nuclear free status did not eventuate. Thus, if Japan was to move more boldly on nuclear disarmament, they would also likely receive strong support form US citizens. Mr Locke also listed ways in which parliamentarians can build accountability from governments to ensure they act for nuclear disarmament - these ways including inviting the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Disarmament to report to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, asking questions in parliament, holding parliamentary reviews of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (and other government departments) and establishing a public advisory committee on disarmament as has been done in New Zealand.
Senator Roche emphasized the importance of Japan cooperating with middle power countries such as Canada and the New Agenda Coalition. He stressed the urgency of taking action on nuclear disarmament to prevent a nuclear disaster and concluded that the time to act is now.