Held onboard Peace Boat's chartered ship the SS Oceanic on July 16, 2009 as it docked in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, the Article 9 & Article 12 Conference - Peace Constitutions for Global Disarmament was a success.
More than 150 participants from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, the United States, Switzerland and Japan explored the value of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution and of Article 12 of the Costa Rican Constitution in their historical perspectives and contemporary contexts, as well as their regional and global significance.
In a passionate message read on his behalf at the opening ceremony, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias welcomed the holding of the event in his country and spoke of Japan and Costa Rica's choice of "peace as a way of life" as "the start of a long and challenging journey." He encouraged participants to stay the course, as "the work of sustaining a lasting peace is endless."
Other written and video messages of support to the conference were sent, including by US Congressman Dennis Kucinich, former Costa Rican President Luis Alberto Monge, Colin Archer of the International Peace Bureau, Ikeda Masanori of the Japanese Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (JALANA), and more, praising the role played by Costa Rica's and Japan's peace clauses in bringing about a culture of peace.
Homero Arellano Lascano, Secretary General of the Vice Presidency of the Republic of Ecuador, expressed his support for peace constitutions, proclaiming that "both Article 9 and Article 12 are tied together in two constitutions of separate countries, but could become axes for pacifist mechanisms that today constitute the way of Peace" and pointed at Article 416 of the new Ecuadorean constitution.
Indeed, following the Costa Rican precedent, his country and several others in Latin America have taken significant steps towards peace in recent months and adopted new constitutions in which they define themselves as pacifist countries that promote a culture of peace and universal disarmament. They also condemn the imposition of foreign military forces on their soils and the use of weapons of mass destruction.
Katayama Yukio, a survivor of the atomic bomb from Hiroshima and Eto Michiko, a third generation survivor, both shared their personal stories and hope for a peaceful future that is free of nuclear weapons.
The Global Article 9 Campaign has supported the work done by Peace Boat in sharing the testimonies of Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) as peace and disarmament educators raising awareness on the dangers of nuclear weapons and the human costs of war. In 2008, Peace Boat took a group of over 100 Hibakusha to more than 20 countries. This year, another group will join Peace Boat's 67th Global Voyage, during which they will visit Ecuador and there participate in a follow-up conference promoting peace constitutions around the world.
Peace educator and consultant for peace and disarmament Alyn Ware from New Zealand highlighted the fact that many regions, including Latin America, Antarctica, New Zealand and Mongolia, are nuclear weapon free zones. Creating a nuclear weapons-free world is possible, he said, by pushing for the creation of other nuclear weapon free zones in the world and promoting the establishment of demilitarized zones.
Costa Rican activist and lawyer Roberto Zamora compared the debates taking place around Article 9 in Japan and Article 12 in Costa Rica. He encouraged the Japanese in the audience to act to protect their peace clause, like he did when he challenged his government's position on the Iraq war in the constitutional court of Costa Rica. His action led to a landmark ruling that Costa Rica cannot support wars in any way, nor can it support the manufacturing of nuclear weapons.
Participants at the conference examined the links between such national peace clauses and Article 26 of the United Nations Charter, which calls for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments with the least diversion of the world's human and economic resources for armaments in order to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security.
Building upon its history of using what would otherwise be the military budget for education after disbanding its army, Costa Rica initiated a debate in the UN Security Council on collective security and armaments regulation in November of 2008.
Welcoming the initiative, the conference discussed its significance and explored ways to develop national, regional and global efforts towards shifting priorities by which resources are allocated. "Is it not obscene that the world is spending over $3.3 billion per day on weapons?", asked Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute, joining his voice in advocating for a decrease in military expenditures to invest instead in financing sustainable development and human security.
View related documents as follows:
Program of the conference
Full list of speakers and their profiles
Messages and Speeches
Back to the Global Conferences Page
The conference concluded by adopting the Puntarenas Declaration, proposing a UN resolution that acknowledges the role peace constitutions play in promoting global disarmament, and calling on governments to shift priorities in the allocation of resources. The declaration calls for a decrease in military expenditures in order to invest in financing sustainable development, human security and peace. It also encourages participation in the Global Forum on Peace Constitutions to be held in Ecuador in November 2009, during which concrete functions and responsibilities of peace constitutions will be discussed and further action encouraged.
Read the final declaration of the conference here.
This event was co-sponsored by Peace Boat, the Latin American Branch of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), the Global Article 9 Campaign, the Faculty of Law at the University of Costa Rica, and the Japanese Lawyers International Solidarity Association (JALISA).
Pictures credit: Peace Boat