HIGHLIGHTS

  • In 1979, Akiba launched the Hibakusha Travel Grants Program, through which American and other journalists visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and listened to atomic bomb survivors tell, and re-tell, their horrific story to the world.
  • He pursued his peace advocacy further when elected to the Japanese House of Representatives in 1990, and after assuming office as Hiroshima’s mayor in 1999.He developed Hiroshima as the “International Peace Culture City,” with its civic facilities, exhibitions, commemorations, and educational activities—all these raising peace consciousness in Japan and throughout the world.
  • Akiba spearheaded Mayors for Peace, a movement launched in 1982 on the premise that the world’s mayors are best positioned to mobilize citizen action in vigorous advocacy for global peace. As its president since 1999, he led the movement on an anti-nuclear campaign and expanded its reach.
  • The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “his principled and determined leadership in a sustained global campaign to mobilize citizens, pressure governments, and build the political will to create a world free from the perils of nuclear war”.

 CITATION

On August 6, 1945, a single atomic bomb reduced the Japanese city of Hiroshima to ashes, taking tens of thousands of precious lives. In its aftermath, the world’s first atomic bomb killed an estimated 140,000 more through radiation and other sicknesses. The bombing’s survivors, called the hibakusha, continue to suffer even to this day. This unprecedented act in the second World War became the defining image of man’s capacity for mass destruction in modern times.

Hiroshima’s horror spurred major efforts at nuclear disarmament after the war. Amid the cry of “No More Hiroshima!” the United Nations adopted the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which came into force in 1970. But the politics of the Cold War and today’s “War on Terror” have set back efforts for full disarmament. In 1970 there were already five nuclear-weapons states; four more countries have since acquired nuclear- weapons capability. Other countries and non-state groups may have already acquired or developed nuclear weapons. Technology has made these weapons not only more available, but also vastly deadlier. A 1980 UN report said there were then close to fifty thousand nuclear weapons in the world, with destructive power equivalent to a million Hiroshima-type A-bombs.

Tadatoshi Akiba, the three-term mayor of Hiroshima, is an acknowledged leader in the global campaign for complete nuclear disarmament. He first became active in the anti-nuclear movement as a student in the ‘60s; his efforts intensified while teaching in a US university, after earning his doctorate in mathematics. Realizing that the world seemed to have forgotten Hiroshima’s tragedy, he resolved to do all he could so its lessons would be remembered—and heeded.

In 1979, Akiba began by launching the Hibakusha Travel Grants Program, through which American and other journalists visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and listened to atomic bomb survivors tell, and re-tell, their horrific story to the world. He pursued his peace advocacy further when elected to the Japanese House of Representatives in 1990, and after assuming office as Hiroshima’s mayor in 1999.

Akiba painfully recognized that Hiroshima, as history’s first victim of nuclear warfare, has the moral obligation to warn the world of the nuclear danger. Thus, he placed himself and his city at the forefront of the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons. Building on the work of his predecessors, he developed Hiroshima as the “International Peace Culture City,” with its civic facilities, exhibitions, commemorations, and educational activities—all these raising peace consciousness in Japan and throughout the world. Akiba spearheaded Mayors for Peace, a movement launched in 1982 on the premise that the world’s mayors are best positioned to mobilize citizen action in vigorous advocacy for global peace. As its president since 1999, he led the movement on an anti-nuclear campaign and expanded its reach. In 1999, Mayors for Peace had 461 member-cities; it now has 4,069 member-cities from 144 countries and regions worldwide. Its sustained campaign includes educational events, anti-nuclear demonstrations, active participation in the cyclical NPT review conferences, and aggressive lobbying with governments and international bodies.

In 2003, Mayors for Peace launched their 2020 Vision campaign to escalate pressure on governments to abolish all nuclear weapons by 2020, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings. And in 2008, they issued the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol, setting forth a roadmap to guide national governments towards the total abolition of nuclear weapons.

Akiba recognizes that nuclear disarmament is an exceedingly complex issue caught up in the volatile realities of global realpolitik. Yet he remains steadfast, believing that the world’s citizens can change the course of the global community—when they are able to act in concert. Disarmingly mild-mannered, he nonetheless asserts: “We shall do everything in our power to break the chain of hatred and violence, to bravely set out on the road to reconciliation, and to ensure that the world abolishes all nuclear weapons without delay.”

In electing Tadatoshi Akiba to receive the 2010 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes his principled and determined leadership in a sustained global campaign to mobilize citizens, pressure governments, and build the political will to create a world free from the perils of nuclear war.

 RESPONSE

The Honorable Benigno S. Aquino III, Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, distinguished guests, fellow Awardees and friends.

I am profoundly honored to be one of the recipients of this year’s Ramon Magsaysay. I am grateful to the trustees for the personal honor they have bestowed on me, but more importantly, for their attention to the cause for which I have been working. I hereby express my glad acceptance on behalf of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the A-bomb survivors in those cities whose voices I represent, and the more than four thousand members of our campaigning NGO Mayors for Peace.

I believe the problem of nuclear weapons will prove to be the decisive issue of our times. I do not claim that it is more important than any of the myriad other global problems we face. Certainly, our environmental problems are equally urgent and threatening. However, our success in solving those other problems will be determined by our handling of nuclear weapons.

I am sure I need not expound here on the dire consequences of allowing nuclear weapons to spin out of control; the worst case scenario is the extinction of the human race. However, many tend to overlook the positive benefits that would derive from a global effort to eliminate them. If the international community were to sign a nuclear weapons convention and initiate the process of finding and eliminating all nuclear weapons and weapons-grade fissile materials, we would be saying, in effect, “We will cooperate to assure our collective survival.” This very process would be both the cause and effect of a dramatic change in international relations, signaling a major paradigm shift that would then open the door to cooperation in other spheres.

To me, nothing is more important than this shift from the dominance paradigm to a partnership paradigm. I am convinced that we must accomplish this shift if we are to keep our planet hospitable to human life.

In this context, I am more than gratified that our campaign to liberate humanity from the threat of nuclear annihilation has been recognized by the Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, and I am thankful for the recognition this award will bring to us from a wider public and for the new creative energy it will generate, especially here in Asia. In sum, this award will strengthen our determination and unite us all, for a nuclear weapon free world by 2020.

Thank you very much.