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Nobel Peace Laureates' Summit: Inspiration From Hiroshima

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The 11th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates will meet in Hiroshima, Japan, on November 12-14, and the Laureates, including President Mikhail Gorbachev and the Dalai Lama, are asking US President Barack Obama -- the 2009 Nobel recipient -- to join them.

The 2010 Laureate Liu Xiaobo of China is in prison, and another Laureate, Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is under house arrest. The Laureates are issuing a strong statement urging governments to free them.

In their letter of invitation, the Nobel Peace Laureates called upon President Obama to use the symbolism of Hiroshima to emphasize the call he expressed in his speech of April 2009 in Prague on the necessity of dismantling the remaining nuclear arsenals. The President's speech described "a realistic and practical approach" -- wrote the five Nobel Peace Prize winners* -- "to the complex challenge of building a world free of nuclear weapons." President Obama also received a letter of invitation from Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima.

The summit, organized by the Permanent Secretariat of Nobel Peace Laureates Summits and the City of Hiroshima, will meet under the theme "The Legacy of Hiroshima: a World Without Nuclear Weapons." The objective of nuclear disarmament is a complex and formidable challenge for which all attending Laureates will call on the international community to take immediate action. The Summit will issue a Final Declaration to inspire greater support for the ongoing international practical efforts to finally achieve, in this 21st century, the elimination of the nuclear threat.

Twenty-thousand nuclear weapons held by a handful of nations remain poised over humanity and present an ongoing threat to everything we hold dear, stimulating dangerous proliferation and the possibility of their acquisition by terrorists. Thus there is an urgent necessity for all leaders to downgrade the political currency of nuclear weapons, pledge never to use them, and commence a process leading to negotiations on their elimination. I will have the honor of speaking at the summit.

The United Nations, its Secretaries-General, and its agencies have been awarded numerous Nobel Peace Prizes. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation one of his signature issues. "Disarmament and non-proliferation are essential across the board, not simply for international peace and security," Mr. Ban said in September, "They can foster confidence among nations and strengthen regional and international stability. They are critical in realizing our common vision of a better world for all. This is why revitalizing momentum on disarmament and non-proliferation has been among my key priorities since I took office."

"Militarism, the painful legacy of the twentieth century," said President Gorbachev, "which in the past repeatedly brought our planet to the brink of disaster, must be forever relegated to the past, while the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes must become the imperative norm of international relations."

The Nobel Laureates' Summit will take place at the same time as the G-20 Summit in Seoul and the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Yokohama, and thus President Obama will be in the region. If he attends the Summit, he would be the first sitting US President to visit the city that was the victim of the first atomic bomb.

Twenty-five individual and Laureate organization will attend. In addition to President Gorbachev and the Dalai Lama, attendees include President Lech Walesa, ex-leader of Solidarity and former President of Poland; Former South African President Willem De Klerk; Northern Irish peace activist Mairead Corrigan Maguire; Iranian human rights campaigner Shirin Ebadi; and US activist Jody Williams, one of the leaders of the international campaign to ban landmines. Representatives from Laureate organizations including the United Nations, Amnesty International, the International Panel on Climate Change, UNICEF, and the Red Cross.

The Laureates will also present their annual Peace Summit Award to an international personality who has dedicated his or her life to the protection and enforcement of human rights. Previous recipients include Bono, George Clooney and Don Cheadle, and Bob Geldof. The 2010 awardee will be announced next week.

Mr. Enzo Cursio, the Vice-President of the Permanent Secretariat of the Nobel Peace Laureates Summits noted, "In addition to granting an award to a public personality, this year the Nobel Peace Laureates are doing something unique by giving special recognition to the atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, also known as Hibakusha. Their suffering and stories deserve heightened public awareness." Mrs. Ekaterina Zagladina, the President of the Permanent Secretariat of Nobel Peace Laureates Summits added that the Hibakusha "have for decades devoted their lives to ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used again. Their psychological and physical suffering have not been adequately recognized by the world. They are a powerful reminder that the use of these weapons of massive destruction and indiscriminate impact represent an affront to our common humanity and a threat to every living being on earth. These atomic bomb survivors are witnesses telling the jury of public conscience that inhumane weapons must never again be used by or against anyone."

* President Gorbachev and four other former Heads of State and Nobel Peace Laureates: Fredrik Willem De Klerk, Lech Walesa, Jose Ramos-Horta, and Oscar Arias Sanchez.