Campaigners in Japan urge leaders to support a treaty banning nuclear weapons

October 4, 2013

Last year ICAN youth campaigners in Hiroshima launched the Paper Crane Project – an initiative to send 1,000 hand-folded paper cranes to the leader of every United Nations member state, a total of more than 190,000 cranes. In return for this gift, they sought a message of support from the leaders for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

So far, they have received 21 official responses, including one from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who wrote: “My wish is that the dream of a nuclear-weapon-free world will become a reality in time to benefit those who folded those cranes. Achieving this goal will require both enlightened leadership from government leaders and from an active and informed public. These cranes … are a call to action.”

Paper cranes are a Japanese symbol for good health and a global symbol for peace and disarmament. This creative and thoughtful project involves students from various high schools in Hiroshima. Their efforts have been supported and funded by the ICAN office in Melbourne, Australia.

The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, said in his message of support: “Afghanistan has always supported calls for a nuclear-free world. We are gravely concerned about the continual stockpiling of nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation. We join all peace-loving people in their call for a global treaty to outlaw and eliminate these instruments of human destruction.”

The president of Switzerland, Eveline Widmer Schlumpf, who received the cranes in person, said: “As long as these weapons exist, they are likely to be used again. This would lead to catastrophic humanitarian consequences for all life on our planet. Preventing this from happening is an enormous global challenge.”

Messages of support have also been received from the presidents of Costa Rica, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Kazakhstan, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Mozambique, Slovenia, Tunisia and Vanuatu, and the prime ministers of Australia, Belgium and Luxembourg.

The US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 claimed more than 210,000 lives and many more have died from radiation-related illnesses in the decades since. The Paper Crane Project calls on leaders of the world to ensure that these indiscriminate and inhumane weapons are never again used.

With more than 150 countries already supporting a ban on nuclear weapons, the youth campaigners hope to gather more messages of support from leaders by sending more of the colourful paper cranes. Activists from the Tokyo-based organisation Peace Boat, an ICAN partner, have begun visiting embassies in the Japanese capital to build on the success of the project so far.

By Jessica Lawson

Find out more about the project here →

  • aiweiwei

    “Let’s act up! Ban nuclear weapons completely and unconditionally.”

    Ai Weiwei Artist and activist

  • sheen

    “If Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr were alive today, they would be part of ICAN.”

    Martin Sheen Actor and activist

  • bankimoon

    “I salute ICAN for working with such commitment and creativity.”

    Ban Ki-moon Former UN chief

  • yokoono

    “We can do it together. With your help, our voice will be made still stronger. Imagine peace.”

    Yoko Ono Artist

  • jodywilliams

    “Governments say a nuclear weapons ban is unlikely. Don’t believe it. They said the same about a mine ban treaty.”

    Jody Williams Nobel laureate

  • desmondtutu

    “With your support, we can take ICAN its full distance – all the way to zero nuclear weapons.”

    Desmond Tutu Nobel laureate

  • herbiehancock

    “Because I cannot tolerate these appalling weapons, I whole-heartedly support ICAN.”

    Herbie Hancock Jazz musician

  • dalailama

    “I can imagine a world without nuclear weapons, and I support ICAN.”

    Dalai Lama Nobel laureate