A Beacon of Hope from A Buddhist Leader in the Face of Crises
Viewpoint by Ramesh
Jaura* – IDN-InDepthNews
TOKYO (IDN) — Like the United Nations, the global community-based Buddhist
organisation Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is a
beacon of hope to a world shrouded by dark clouds of unprecedented crises. An
international association of the Soka Gakkai and an NGO in consultative status
with UN ECOSOC, SGI has members in 192 countries and territories around the
world. SGI President is Daisaku
Ikeda, a Buddhist philosopher, peacebuilder and educator.
Every year since 1983, he has issued a peace proposal,
which explores the interrelation between core Buddhist concepts and the diverse
challenges global society faces in the effort to realize peace and human
security. In addition, he has also made proposals touching on issues such as
education reform, the environment, the United Nations and nuclear abolition.
In his latest 39th annual peace proposal, titled “Value
Creation in a Time of Crisis“, released on January 26, 2021, marking
the anniversary of the founding of the SGI, President Ikeda calls for further
global cooperation to address the key issues of our time: extreme weather
events that reflect the worsening problem of climate change and the onslaught
of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which continues to threaten social
and economic stability throughout the world.
Besides, more than 13,400 nuclear weapons in the current
arsenals of nine nuclear-armed states and 32 nuclear-weapon endorsing states
are an existential menace. Their explosive yield has grown exponentially since
1945 when atomic bombs razed to the ground Japanese cities of Hiroshima and
The SGI President recalls that, amid the Cold War’s
accelerating nuclear arms race, Josei Toda (1900–1958), second president of the
Soka Gakkai, issued a declaration in September 1957 calling for the abolition
of nuclear weapons. “Inspired by this, our organisation has worked for the
comprehensive prohibition of nuclear weapons and to make this a norm governing
international relations,” he adds.
To this end, SGI has actively collaborated with such
organisations as the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). In light of this history, the award of
the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize and the TPNW’s entry into force about three years
later has been an unparalleled cause of celebration for SGI too.
Dr Ikeda notes — with apparent satisfaction — that despite
the continuing complex of crises, “progress in efforts to build a global
society committed to peace and humane values has not halted”. An example
of important progress is the entry into force of the Treaty on the
Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on January 22, 2021.
The Treaty maps a clear path to the achievement of the
long-sought goal of nuclear weapons abolition, an issue that was addressed at
the UN in 1946, one year after its founding, in the very first resolution adopted
by the General Assembly; it has remained pending ever since.
Still reeling under
the catastrophic pandemic’s impacts
Notwithstanding progress on the TPNW front, the world is
still reeling under the catastrophic pandemic’s impacts. More than 99 million
people had been infected with COVID-19 as of January 25, 2021. Of these, over
2.12 million have died. In slightly more than one year, the number of COVID-19
fatalities has far exceeded the total number of lives claimed by large-scale
natural disasters over the past two decades.
“One cannot begin to fathom the depth of grief
experienced by those who have lost their loved ones in this unforeseen manner;
and this pain is deepened by the fact that, due to measures to prevent the
spread of the virus, so many of the victims have been prevented from spending
their final moments with family by their side,” mourns Dr Ikeda.
He emphasises the economic devastation brought about by the
pandemic, estimated to be threatening the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people —
half the world’s workforce — and emphasises the need to promote global social
In his latest annual peace proposal, the SGI leader focuses
on three main issue areas.
The first relates to strengthening global governance
and establishing global guidelines for combating infectious diseases.
Because of the possibility of new infectious diseases
emerging in the future, the SGI President calls for convening a high-level
meeting and collaboration among the world’s governments to adopt international
guidelines governing pandemic response.
Crucial youth role
pleads for a “beyond COVID-19” youth summit to discuss what kind of
world young people would like to see in the aftermath of the current crisis. “This
summit could utilise online platforms, thus enabling the participation of many
young people from diverse backgrounds,” says Dr Ikeda.
In 2020, the UN launched the UN75 initiative — an ambitious
attempt to listen to the world’s people’s voices through surveys and dialogue.
Of the suggestions detailed in the UN75 Report, Dr Ikeda highlights, in
particular, the idea of establishing a UN youth council with the role of
communicating to the UN leadership ideas and proposals developed from the
perspective of young people.
The TPNW — a turning
point in human history
The second issue on which the SGI President offers
specific proposals is the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons.
“Removing the grave danger posed by these weapons is at
the heart of both the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of
Nuclear Weapons (NPT),” which entered into force in 1970 and the TPNW
that became a legally binding international agreement on January 22, 2021, he
“The entry into force of the TPNW marks the start of an
era in which the continued existence of nuclear weapons on Earth has been
stipulated as unacceptable by a legally binding instrument.”
In his view, attention now focuses on the first meeting of
States Parties of the TPNW. Since any state is welcome to attend, a major focus
will be on how to involve as many nuclear-weapon and nuclear-dependent states
as possible in the deliberations.
Japan’s special role
“As the only country in the world to have experienced a
nuclear attack in wartime, Japan should pave the way for the nuclear-dependent
states by announcing its intention to participate in the first meeting of
States Parties of the TPNW and to proactively take part in discussions,”
emphasises Dr Ikeda.
“On this basis, Japan should aim for ratification at an
early date. In light of its history and the underlying spirit of the Treaty —
to protect the right to live of all the people with whom we share this planet
and to ensure the survival of future generations — it can certainly send a
powerful message to the world. In this way, Japan can make an important
contribution to ensuring that the talks reach a constructive outcome.”
The SDGs and Nuclear
Furthermore, the SGI President proposes a forum for
discussing the relationship between nuclear weapons and the Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) during the
first meeting of States Parties. The theme of nuclear weapons and the SDGs can
thus be positioned as an issue concerning all states and serve as the
impetus to engage as many nuclear-weapon and nuclear-dependent states as
True meaning of
security in light of climate change and COVID-19 crises
Besides, he wants the NPT Review Conference scheduled for
August this year to discuss the true meaning of security in light of crises
such as climate change and the pandemic. The final document, he adds, should
include a pledge of non-use of nuclear weapons and a pledge to freeze all
nuclear-weapon development in the lead-up to the 2025 Review Conference.
The SGI President argues that the TPNW opens a path for a
nuclear-weapon state to become a State Party by submitting a plan to eliminate
its nuclear-weapon program. Such participation by nuclear-dependent and
nuclear-weapon states in the TPNW could be facilitated under the NPT regime by
embarking on multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament undergirded by
pledges non-use and a freeze on nuclear-weapon development. He calls for
efforts to link the operation of these two treaties in ways that will put us on
the path to ending the nuclear age.
Rebuilding life in a
The third issue on which Dr Ikeda offers proposals
pertains to the reconstruction of economies and lives disrupted by the COVID-19
As the United Nations has repeatedly emphasised, the
magnitude of the COVID-19 economic shock has thrown many millions of people
into financial devastation. This has driven home the urgency of strengthening
access to social protection systems, a goal also supported by the members of
the 37-nation Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
“I hope that OECD members will take the lead in efforts
to realise all SDG targets related to ensuring universal social protection
measures. I also hope that they will work together to establish and implement
global policy standards for rebuilding economies and livelihoods devastated by
the COVID-19 crisis,” says Dr Ikeda.
Transition to a green
One direction this could take, he adds, is the development
of new industries and the creation of job opportunities through the transition
to a green economy, scaling back military spending and allocating the resources
saved to strengthening social protection systems.
Further, notes the SGI President, OECD members have a
significant role to play in enacting ambitious policies that enhance social
resilience. “We are living in an era in which we need to adopt a
comprehensive and simultaneous ‘multi-hazard approach’ to threats and
challenges, with a clear understanding of the systemic nature of risk, as
advocated by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.”
Dr Ikeda assures that drawing upon the network of
collaborative relations Buddhist organisation has developed to date, as part of
civil society, it is “wholeheartedly committed to working toward 2030 with
like-minded people and organisations to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs
and to realise a global society of peace and humane values”.
The 39th peace proposal — like his previous suggestions — is
eminently exhaustive, founded not only on the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism
but also on the culture of peace and the author’s wisdom and diverse encounters
over the years with philosophers and government and religious leaders from
around the world.