2011 Event


Public Event “Testimony of Hibakusha, Atomic Bomb Survivors”


26 October 2011

On 26 October 2011, the Government of Japan, in cooperation with the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs and Department of Public Information, hosted an event to present the testimonies of two “Special Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons” who were visiting New York during the 2011 UN Disarmament Week at the UN headquarters in New York.


The event took place as part of Japan’s continuing efforts to promote disarmament and non-proliferation education. This includes translating the testimonies of Hibakusha, atomic bomb survivors, into multiple languages which it disseminates to younger generations. This meeting with Hibakusha was held with an aim to provide an opportunity for the participants of the negotiations on disarmament and non-proliferation at the First Committee of the UN General Assembly to listen to Hibakusha testimonies in person. This was the first visit of Hibakusha to the UN as “Special Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons” to share their experiences.

The two “Special Communicators,” Ms. Kazu Sueishi and Ms. Setsuko Thurlow, both survived the atomic bombing in Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.  Since then, they have been dedicated to take actions to share their horrific experiences and the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons and the importance of peace.  Both Ms. Sueishi and Ms. Thurlow received special commendations from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan this year for their work to increase understanding among the international community on the importance of realizing a world without nuclear weapons. 

Ambassador Kazuo Kodama, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the UN welcomed the two guests and opened the event.  Ms. Hannelore Hoppe, Director and Deputy to the High Representative of the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs, also welcomed the two “Special Communicators” along with stressing the importance of disarmament and non-proliferation.  Ms. Sueishi and Ms. Thurlow then took the floor to share their experiences to attendees.

Ms. Sueishi was eighteen years old when the bomb was dropped in Hiroshima.  She started with stories about her family on the morning of 6 August.  She recounted her experience after moving to the United States following the war, which made her recall the experience of the bombing. She introduced her efforts to help Hibakusha living abroad to receive medical support from the Japanese Government.  Ms. Sueishi told everyone that she is their “Grandma.” She stressed the importance of sharing her experiences with younger generations and how peace is only created by mutual understanding and love, not by hatred.


Ms. Thurlow survived the atomic bombing as a 13-year-old student.  She shared her experience of escaping from a collapsed building where she was trapped with many of her classmates.  Having managed to escape from the burning building, she tried to help people who were asking for water.  She further described how after she moved to Toronto, Canada, she has been working with locals to reform the education system in order to educate the younger generation about the horrific use of nuclear weapons.  She delivered the strong message to the audience that action should be taken now in order to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.


During the testimonies given by Ms. Sueishi and Ms. Thurlow, the room was silent and people had images of the horrific event in their minds.  After the testimonies, audiences thanked the “Special Communicators” for sharing their personal experiences.  Participants also praised their courage of overcoming such personal tragedy and their dedication in continuing their efforts to appeal to the world on the horrific consequences of the use of nuclear weapons.  Ambassador Mari Amano, Permanent Representative of the Delegation of Japan to the Conference of Disarmament in Geneva, who is a chief negotiator for Japan’s diplomacy on disarmament affairs, gave the closing remarks of the event.


This event was a great opportunity for diplomats, UN officials and NGOs who all work on the issues of disarmament, non-proliferation, human rights and development at the UN, to listen to the personal experiences of “Special Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons.”  The event also provided an opportunity for the general public to know Japan’s continued efforts in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation education and to raise awareness on the importance of continued efforts in nuclear disarmament.  This first visit of the “Special Communicators” to New York involved going not only to the UN but also to local elementary schools and Columbia University, which allowed many people to listen to their testimonies.


Ambassador Kodama opening the event


Two Special Communicators, Ms. Kazu Sueishi and Ms. Setuko Thurlow (from left)


Ms. Sueishi sharing her experience with the audience


Ms. Thurlow, strongly appealing the need for the elimination of nuclear weapons

Audience responding to the testimonies of Hibakusha