GENEVA – Japanese student peace ambassadors are unlikely to deliver a speech at this year’s Conference on Disarmament in Geneva due to vehement opposition from China and other countries, a U.N. diplomatic source said Monday.
If high school student ambassadors — candidates for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize — are not allowed to speak at the conference, it would mark the second straight year they have been unable to do so. The students had spoken at the conference for each of the three preceding years.
Last year the students were unable to speak at the meeting because China and other nations were opposed to it, saying that the conference is a venue for intergovernmental disarmament negotiations and in principle does not allow nongovernmental parties to take part.
Despite the prospect of not being able to speak, the citizen’s group dispatching the young ambassadors plans to request an opportunity to do so. The Japanese delegation to the conference says it will offer them a chance to speak publicly as it did last year, even if they are unable to deliver a speech in the conference hall itself.
The high school student peace ambassador program was launched in 1998 after two high school students from Nagasaki visited the U.N. headquarters in New York with signatures calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
A group of 20 student ambassadors, some of whom are still to be selected for this year, will submit signatures supporting nuclear disarmament to the secretariat of the Conference on Disarmament, after arriving in Geneva on Aug. 28.
An official with the civic group arranging the trip said the students should be allowed to deliver a speech at the conference, adding that “it would be a valuable opportunity for the students to appeal for nuclear abolition.”