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Reports from the World Peace Forum

June 26: Article 9 Workshop a great success

As of this morning, there were over 5,000 people registered for the WPF.

From one until five this afternoon, at the main venue of the World Peace Forum, the University of British Columbia, a workshop entitled, "Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution: A Common Treasure for the Humankind for Peace" was conducted. This workshop was co-sponsored by six organizations: Peace Boat, the Hague Appeal For Peace, Vancouver Save Article 9, Japan Council Against A- and H- Bombs (Gensuikyo), the Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (Gensuikin), Japan Confederation of A- and H- Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hidankyo). The workshop was endorsed by the Japan Lawyers International Solidarity Association (JALISA), People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, Korea (PSPD), and Civil Network for a Peaceful Korea.

The venue overflowed with around 200 attendees. There were around 50 local Canadians and WPF participants from around the world, with approximately 150 Japanese delegates from groups such as Gensuikyo also taking part. The enthusiasm in the room demonstrated the immense interest in this issue. Having so many participants, both Japanese and international, was honestly a great joy for the Peace Boat staff who had been in place since one week before the workshop preparing and promoting the event. As there are countless different workshops within the WPF, it was not easy to attract this many people to a single workshop. By handing out and posting yellow leaflets telling of the Article 9 Workshop throughout all of the numerous forum venues, we were able to firmly impress WPF participants that although Article 9 could upon first glance appear to be a domestic Japanese issue, it is in fact an issue of global importance.

The workshop featured speeches by six panellists. Akihiko Kimijima, who is both Director of the Nonviolent Peaceforce and a professor at Ritsumeikan University, spoke of a 'global civil society,' taking the pacifism of Article 9 as something that can strengthen both the United Nations Charter and the UN system. Opposing this, he also identified the close relationship of globalization and the growing economic divide between North and South with the global militarization which constitutes the agent for the proposed constitutional change.

Joseph Gerson of the American Friends Service Committee outlined the historical developments of the US-Japan Security Pact, and pointed out that lying in the background of the constitutional amendment movement are the US policies regarding Asia, above all its policy regarding containment of China. Furthermore, he sent a strong message of support to the Japanese citizens' movement to protect Article 9.

Roberto Zamora from Costa Rica University emphasized that the renouncement of war in Japan's Article 9 is a right of the people, and he appealed the importance of the people's 'right to peace'. Roberto himself won in a trial over the Costa Rican government in the High Court, proving that support of the US war on Iraq was a violation of Costa Rica's Peace Constitution. The skilled speech of this 25-year-old youth, who himself successfully exercised the 'right to peace,' spread smiles throughout the audience, creating a vibrant atmosphere.

Representative of the Hague Appeal for Peace, Cora Weiss, rushed in after participating partially in the simultaneously-run workshop "Women in Conflict Prevention – UN Resolution 1325." She asked the room, "Do you know what WWW stands for?", answering that "it's World Without War." While looking back on the achievements of the war-abolishing 1999 Hague Conference, she spoke of Japan's Article 9 as a development of the UN Charter's Article 2 Paragraph 2, and encouraged the Japanese movement.

Satoko Norimatsu, member of both Vancouver Save Article 9 and UBC's teaching staff, spoke of the significance of what is likely the world's first Article 9 group (begun in June 2005, with a current membership of around 100). Using photographs, she specifically introduced the group's activities, which include staging lectures by local academics about the issue of Article 9, screening director John Junkerman's film "Japan's Peace Constitution," and holding events aimed at children. Hearing that their activities have spread far beyond Japanese residing in Vancouver greatly inspired courage in the participants. Furthermore, she passed on a petition to protect Article 9.

From Ikuya Nishikawa of the National Confederation of Trade Unions, Japan (Zenroren) came an appeal regarding the need to strengthen the democracy movement in order to protect Article 9.

Due to the deeply passionate talks of all the panellists, the speeches took almost double the time planned, and thus there was unfortunately little time for open discussion with all the participants. However, with comments such as a female Brazilian participant asking, "how about spreading it further throughout Latin America?", it is certain that the spread of Article 9 globally took a significant step forward.

Following the end of the session, we received a suggestion from a representative of a local Chinese-Canadian group that, "the day after tomorrow (28 June), Prime Minister Koizumi will visit Vancouver; how about holding an action to protect Article 9 of the Constitution in Vancouver on that day?" The group of Japanese currently in Vancouver are now discussing the possibility of holding such an action.

June 28: Final WPF Statement Supports Article 9

A report of the final appeal of the WPF and of today's conference.

In the final statement adapted today, 'the 32 page document "Vancouver Appeal For Peace 2006: Make Peace!" summarizes the most important contents from the 5,000 people who came together from all over the world to discuss various topics related to world peace. Within this, there are ten basic demands, and one of these is a call for governments of all nations to constitutionally renounce war, as done in Japan's Article 9. Starting with the Article 9 Workshop held on June 26, this demonstrates the broad influence of the appeal to globalize Article 9.

The full statement is available here. It was developed through proposals by the Draft Committee, then several sessions over the following days were held, with hundreds of people participating to propose amendments.

- Akira Kawasaki, Peace Boat

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