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Ambassadors, academics and experts discuss the nuclear age at UNESCO

©US Archival photo / Baker Shot, July 25, 1046 (underwater blast, second test at Bikini)

02.02.2011

A Bangkok forum on nuclear weapons and technology discussed widespread issues such as the role of UNESCO in focusing science and technology for promotion of the culture of peace rather than the culture of war, and for increasing mutual understanding of ethics and culture.

 

The event held recently at UNESCO Bangkok, Thailand involved representatives of the Mayors for Peace initiative and the 2020 Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons.

Chairperson of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation Steven Leeper  considered the use of nuclear technology at the event titled “Ethics of Nuclear Technology and the Future of Nuclear Weapons”.

He said: “We are not against nuclear power, although we do raise some questions. How do we deal with the proliferation issue? How do we deal with the waste? We do not see an effective way of dealing with either of these right now.

“And a lot of people in Hiroshima are very allergic to the idea of radiation. Radiation is an issue Hiroshimans are vastly sensitive to, more than most people in the world,” Mr. Leeper added.

In August 1945, two atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Within the first four months of the bombings, the acute effects killed an estimated 90,000-166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000-80,000 in Nagasaki.

These two events are the only past use of nuclear weapons in war to date.

Today, countless citizens still suffer from the devastating after-effects of radiation and this serves as a painful reminder that such tragedies must never happen again.

The Mayors for Peace organization was officially registered as a UN-NGO in 1990. It is an international organization of cities dedicated to the promotion of peace that was established in 1982 at the initiative of the then mayor of Hiroshima Takeshi Araki.

The organization is composed of global cities that have formally expressed support for the directive and the total abolition of nuclear weapons.

Ethical issues on the use of nuclear energy technologies need to be discussed from different cultural and political perspectives. In the Asia-Pacific region there are a number of countries exploring nuclear energy technology, as there are globally.

With this in mind, UNESCO, as a neutral forum to examine the ethics of science and technology, hosted the event to thrash out these critically important issues.

“This ethical analysis is not intended to provide single answers to specific policy options for contextually-sensitive decisions that each government needs to make,” said Gwang-Jo Kim, Director of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Bangkok, at the opening of the forum.

“Rather it aims to provide a framework for ethical analysis that can be used to examine nuclear energy technologies that can be applied for various cases and situations,” he added.

Over 30 academics, ambassadors and participants from countries such as Cambodia, Canada, Germany, India, Kuwait, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Thailand attended the forum.

Debate over the use of nuclear weapons has been prominent recently, as the world counts down to the 2020 Vision Campaign that aims to abolish nuclear weapons by 2020.

South Africa is the first and only country to voluntarily give up nuclear weapons developed domestically. The country’s nuclear weapons programme dates back to the late 1960’s but in 1991 it signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state. This occurred as a precursor to South Africa’s democratic elections in 1994.

“We’ve had almost 20 years of a nuclear weapon-free South Africa. We also try to promote the whole of Africa to be nuclear-weapon-free,” South Africa’s ambassador to Thailand, H.E. ambassador Douglas Gibson told delegates.

“It was a desire to move ahead to safeguard human kind, to focus on important things like people and develop our countries and not waste our resources on nuclear weapons,” he said.

UNESCO is also working on a report on the Ethics of Nuclear Energy Technology, which examines numerous aspects that involve the ethics and economics of nuclear energy technology; the ethical aspects of nuclear energy; and policy options.

A copy of this draft report can be downloaded at:
www.unescobkk.org/fileadmin/user_upload/shs/Energyethics/ECCAPWG12rpt4.pdf

For further information, email the Regional Unit for Social and Human Sciences in Asia and the Pacific (RUSHSAP), UNESCO Bangkok, at: rushsap.bgk@unesco.org.,

Alternatively, telephone: 02-391-0577 extension 147.