Mr. Tadateru Konoé President, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), President, Japanese Red Cross Society
Date: Monday, 24 April, 2017
Event: Global High-level Movement Conference on Nuclear Weapons
Location: Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan

Distinguished guests,

Red Cross Red Crescent friends and colleagues,


On behalf of the Japanese Red Cross Society, as the co-host of the meeting with ICRC, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to you all.


I am so pleased that, finally, this important conference is being held here in Nagasaki in this important year. My heartfelt thanks to you all for your participation.


First and foremost, I hope that you are all able to benefit from the charm of Nagasaki City over the next couple of days. It is a true fusion of East and West. From the mid-seventeenth to mid-nineteenth century, Japanese citizens were not allowed by the then government to have direct contact with the rest of the world. However, even during this period of isolation, Nagasaki was allowed to be open to the world as the exclusive place in Japan for international trade. As Nagasaki was able to enlighten the rest of Japan with its rich and unique experiences, so to let this Conference inspire us all.


But sadly, Nagasaki is not only known for its trading past and beautiful landscapes, it is also remembered for the event that took place over seventy years ago. When the people of Nagasaki experienced the worst consequences of nuclear weapons, the outcomes of which were both indiscriminate and horrific. This was not a one-off event, it has impacted, and will continue to impact, generations.


We, the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, salute the people of Nagasaki for their resilience in carrying such a heavy burden, and for their courage in actively sharing their experiences with the world so that no other city has, nor will face, the same tragedy. Seventy-two years ago, other Japanese cities were also listed as potential targets for the atomic bombing. With nuclear weapons still in existence, it is clear that the tragedy of Nagasaki could still befall anyone, anytime and anywhere.


In the coming days, you will all listen carefully to the testimony of Hibakusha, the people directly affected by the atomic bomb. We will also learn about the resolutions and endeavours of various people in trying to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. We should also not forget that some of the victims of the atomic bomb were foreigners, including the Prisoners of War who were detained in Nagasaki at the time of the bombing. The experience of Nagasaki is not a local anecdote, but one of international concern.


Even in states with nuclear weapon capabilities, there are people who have been exposed to radiation caused by the weapons, either as workers producing or maintaining them, or as local residents living nearby nuclear weapons facilities or test sites. We have seen from the experience of nuclear power plant accidents such as Chernobyl or Fukushima, that even the consequences of an accidental release of radiation does not respect borders. Neither do nuclear weapons. This must be high on the global agenda and remain there until we have a resolution.


Before me today is a rich mix of National Societies, with different levels of experience on the nuclear weapon issue. Each with different experiences that have been nourished in each country, and I am sure many different opinions on how to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. I truly value such a diverse gathering and I really encourage an active discussion by all.


One of my main concerns in the discussions amongst the state parties is the lack of full participation. As you all know, a series of conferences have been convened this year to negotiate a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons. I hope that not only the nuclear weapon states but also all the states under the nuclear umbrella come to the same table with others and contribute their opinions through these important negotiations.


The next round of negotiations is scheduled to take place in mid June. One of the primary purposes of our meeting today is to discuss our necessary action as the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement towards this round of negotiations. Our message is clear. A treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons is in line with our Movement stance concerning nuclear weapons, and such a treaty should not miss this golden opportunity to be realised by all means. We also believe that it is equally important to continue our steps in exploring various avenues to abolish existing nuclear weapons.


I cannot help but think of the risk in maintaining as many as fifteen thousand nuclear warheads around the world that essentially could destroy our world multiple times over. This number of warheads increases the risk that weapons could be detonated unintentionally. It is also a fact that we have not been successful in deterring the proliferation of nuclear weapons, hence the exploration of a new approach must be inevitable. It is important, not only for the Japanese Red Cross Society but also for the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement to explore how to go beyond Hiroshima and Nagasaki after this conference.


Ladies and gentlemen, I would also like to add a few more words in my role as President of the International Federation.


Following the action plan adopted in the Council of Delegates in 2013, the International Federation coordinated National Societies’ involvement in relevant multilateral meetings and ensured that the voices of National Societies remain heard. Most recently in 2016, a large delegation of the Federation spoke out at the United Nations’ open-ended working group in Geneva, which resulted in the start of the negotiations to ban nuclear weapons in March 2017 onwards.


The International Federation is also providing an e-platform for National Societies to exchange experiences and knowledge within the Movement in following up the action plan. I understand that this platform is planned to be upgraded very soon.


There is no International Federation without member National Societies. There is no strong International Federation without strong member National Societies who are united and committed to the common cause of humanity.


The most important key for the success of National Societies is to gain trust from stakeholders through candid exchange of views. The International Federation, including myself as its leadership, is ready to support such trust-building from the international level. This is also the case for our endeavour towards the elimination of the nuclear weapons.


The atmosphere surrounding the nuclear disarmament debate has always been political, but it should not prevent us from making progress in the right direction. As the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has repeatedly emphasised, we are concerned about the humanitarian consequences. I think our strong humanitarian messages – namely, the severe human costs of nuclear weapons and our concerns about whether it is possible to adequately assist the victims of nuclear detonation – are critical and can help change the mindset of decision makers.


Under the circumstances that we see today, it is even more important for us to go back to our roots. Our Fundamental Principles, and our imperative to put “Humanity First”, are so important. As ever, these need to remain our bedrock and our compass in overcoming the egoism and intolerance that is becoming ever more apparent in our world today. With this regard, I hope that the participants of this conference join hands with me in realising Humanity First in all that we do and especially in regards to the nuclear weapon context.


Wishing you all a successful conference. Thank you.

Speech data

National Societies




Chemical weapons