PRESS CONFERENCE BY MAYORS FOR PEACE
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
3 May 2005
At a Headquarters press conference this morning, representatives of the Mayors for Peace organization highlighted their vision of a nuclear-free world by declaring that even one nuclear weapon in the world was one too many.
Tadatoshi Akiba, the Mayor of the City of Hiroshima, who is also President of Mayors for Peace; Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic, President of the United States Conference of Mayors and Mayor of Akron, Ohio; Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito; Dr. Herbert Schmalstieg, Lord Mayor of Hanover, Germany; and the President of the Italian province of Milan, Fillippo Penati, spoke to correspondents at a press conference to discuss “Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Mayors for Peace” ahead of the group’s address to the NPT Conference now under way, as well as it’s own conference timed to coincide with the NPT meeting.
Tadatoshi Akiba, the Mayor of the City of Hiroshima, said the group’s presence in New York, coinciding as it did with the NPT Conference currently under way here, was timely as it began its emergency action to promote the campaign to ban nuclear weapons. Around 100 mayors from cities around the world were in New York, and it was impressive to see the variety of people and voices that had assembled to advocate for the banning of nuclear weapons. The mayors wanted to see the creation of a peace culture, instead of a war culture, as demonstrated by the peace march last Sunday.
The organization’s mission was to eliminate all nuclear weapons by the year 2020 within the framework of the United Nations – hence, it’s nickname “20/20 Vision”. In the interim, the goal was to have a universal nuclear weapons convention signed by 2010, towards which the mayors were working hard in conjunction with other key players, so that good faith negotiations could start towards such a convention, he said.
He was further encouraged by the statement today by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the problem of nuclear weapons was not limited to one country or a group of countries, but that it was a problem of the whole world. Therefore, the human race as a whole had to work together to solve it and solving it meant eliminating nuclear weapons. The Mayors for Peace Conference at the United Nations was being held in that spirit.
Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic, President of the United States Conference of Mayors and Mayor of Akron, Ohio, said he was happy to represent the hundreds of mayors across the United States who were involved in the United States Conference of Mayors -- an organization that had been in existence for more than 75 years, bringing mayors from the United States together to learn from each other, examine issues and try to share potential solution, as well as be a voice for people who lived in their cities.
He felt it was important that United States mayors joined with their fellow mayors from across the globe and to be part of the debate of why it was important for mayors to be involved in the nuclear threat, besides the typical issues traditionally associated with mayors, such as worrying about housing, street repair and transport systems. More recently, mayors had been involved in environmental issues and economic development. It was a further step to be involved in an effort that seemed to be more associated with the Federal Government’s responsibility.
“With mayors listening to other mayors across the world, hopefully we can build a movement that does begin the elimination of the threat of nuclear war and then hopefully provide additional support for peace throughout the world”, Mayor Plusquellic said. He commended Hiroshima Mayor Akiba’s leadership and speaking out and taking his time from thinking about his own city’s domestic concerns to come to and send that message across the world.
He noted that he was not sure that, prior to the tragic events of 11 September 2001, the average American citizen recognized the inter-connectivity of everyone in a world that was shrinking, literally, by the day. But after that date, everyone knew how connected they were to each other and how easy it was for someone to do something devastating, if people of the world did not unite to work together.
Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito said it had been almost 60 years since those attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,. During that time, many nuclear weapons had been produced, but not one had actually been used. He attributed that to the fact that the countries that had nuclear weapons, and those that would like to have them, all realized what a horrible thing nuclear weapons were and the resultant devastation that would result from their use. “I want you to know that the effects of the bombs, the effects of the radiation, are such that even today, with the wonderful advances that modern medicine has achieved, they have not been able to overcome these long, long-term, decades-long after-effects”, Mayor Ito stressed.
Dr. Herbert Schmalstieg, Lord Mayor of Hanover, Germany, and also one of the vice presidents of Mayors for Peace, declared that one nuclear weapon was one nuclear weapon too many and called for the elimination of all nuclear weapons all over the world. He said no efforts should be spared in that regard and hoped that all those States that had such weapons would eliminate them and that no other country could get the weapons.
The President of the Italian province of Milan, Fillippo Penati, said that while Italy had in recent years witnessed a rebirth of the peace movement, more attention needed to be devoted to issues of nuclear disarmament. All too frequently in his country, as in other nations, people tended to think that with the end of the cold war and with the fall of the Berlin wall, there no longer was a need for a great commitment and engagement towards nuclear disarmament. Peace movements, as well as local government institutions, had to work harder to raise awareness and sensitivity towards the matter of total disarmament. All must commit themselves to the objective that there would be “no more Hiroshimas, no more Nagasakis”.
Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, whose Mission sponsored this morning’s press conference, expressed his gratitude to all the mayors who had come to New York to “hold our hands” at a conference he said was so critical to humanity’s future. Coming from a country located in a part of the world that was extremely volatile, Bangladesh wanted to be a paradigm to show the world that it was possible to buttress a nation’s sense of security by building not weapons, but linkages of friendships and connections with the rest of the global community.
A correspondent wanted to know what it felt like to be shackled by the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and yet be in the same neighbourhood as a
rising super-Power which had nuclear capability –- China. The two Japanese Mayors noted that the survivors of the nuclear attacks had, for the past 60 years, been stressing a clear message -- no one else should suffer the way they did. All countries, not just one, should make efforts towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.
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