Japan’s conscientious civil society members last week got a significant boost to their campaign for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the country’s postwar pacifist constitution. A group formed to recommend the Japanese people as prize candidates for their efforts to maintain the constitution said it had been notified by the Nobel Committee of being placed on this year’s candidacy list.
The movement was kicked off a year ago by a Japanese housewife in her 30s, who was inspired when the EU received the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize for its contributions to peace, reconciliation and democracy in postwar Europe. She thought that Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, which limits Tokyo’s military to self-defense and renounces the use of force as a means of settling international disputes, was also entitled to receive the prize.
In August, her campaign, supported by her friends and neighbors, grew more concrete with the establishment of an executive commission joined by scholars and civic group leaders. The measure to recommend the Japanese people instead of their constitution followed a notice from the Nobel Committee that, unlike individuals and groups, abstract things cannot become candidates. Nearly 25,000 Japanese citizens signed a petition to award the peace prize to Japan’s constitution, which was sent to the committee in February.
It is ironic that Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has inadvertently given his people a chance to win the prize by pushing for the amendment of the pacifist article to promote his “proactive pacifism.”
Abe, who took his second premiership in December 2012, said late last year that revising the constitution was his “life’s work” as a politician. He later predicted the constitution “will have been revised by 2020” when Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympic Games.
His aggressive moves to change the basic law and lead his country in the right-wing nationalist direction have concerned Japan’s conscientious citizens. Their bid for the Nobel Peace Prize, which they hope would help block Abe’s attempt at a constitutional revision, deserves more attention and support from the international community. Civic groups here, in particular, need to take an active role in building global solidarity to help the movement bear fruit.
It is too early to predict what choice the Nobel Peace Prize Committee will make this year, with many complex factors, some of which are yet to emerge, lying ahead. But it may be said with confidence that honoring the peace-loving Japanese public would contribute to making the world more peaceful and secure.