Hiroshima University Holds Student Summit to Tackle Future of Peace in Post COVID-19 World

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Hiroshima University holds its first student summit to envision a post-pandemic future without conflicts as the world marks the 75th anniversary of both the atomic bombing and the founding of the United Nations — influential events in advancing global peace now potentially threatened by COVID-19.

The summit is called the “2020 Students’ HIROSHIMA Summit to Think about Peace.”

In a speech last April, UN Secretary-General António Guterres cautioned against the ways the pandemic could imperil global peace and security. Although, primarily a health crisis, the UN chief recognized the pandemic’s far-reaching implications which could potentially spark a surge in social unrest and violence.

Already, the pandemic has exacerbated existing human rights challenges and created new ones.

“We are seeing stigma, hate speech, and white supremacists and other extremists seeking to exploit the situation,” the UN chief said.

2020 students’ HIROSHIMA declaration

Hiroshima prefecture’s unique history as witness to the horrors of the first atomic bomb attack on Aug. 6, 1945, paved the way to its enduring motivation to remind the world to renounce war and nuclear weapons. The pursuit of peace is also one of the core guiding principles of Hiroshima University, which saw buildings of colleges that later became part of it destroyed in the atomic bombing.

The university emphasized that the objective of the summit is to have students look squarely at tragedies such as atomic bombings, genocides, abuse of prisoners of war, or famine then derive lessons from them as they imagine a future without nuclear weapons and violence.

Twelve undergraduate and graduate students from six countries — Bulgaria, France, Japan, Philippines, Thailand, and United States — were selected by the university last month among those who wrote an essay on “The role of HIROSHIMA in the world of the post-novel coronavirus era.”

The selected candidates are now participating in the summit’s events which involve intensive discussions and a lecture series facilitated by the university’s Center for Peace. The students also had a chance to listen to experiences of Dr. Kensuke Ueki, professor emeritus of Hiroshima University, who survived the atomic bombing.

A majority of the events during the three-months-long summit were held virtually while on-site discussions observed strict mask-wearing and social distancing protocols to halt the spread of COVID-19.

The summit will culminate with the crafting of a 2020 students’ HIROSHIMA declaration, a set of principles to promote nuclear disarmament, in English and Japanese which will be handed to the university president on August 6.

This story was first published on the Hiroshima University website.