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‘I feel empowered’: says Pacific youth delegate after nuclear summit

Friday 28 April 2023 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional

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‘I feel empowered’: says Pacific youth delegate after nuclear summit
Pacific Youth at Hiroshima G7 Youth Summit 2023. Photo: Supplied/Tamatoa Tepuhiarii/23042876

Pacific Youth are looking at how they can spark positive change following the Hiroshima G7 Youth Summit which wrapped up this week.

Youth from around the world have met in the Japanese city in an effort to find solutions to stop the use of nuclear weapons. The summit was co-organised by the Centre for Peace at the Hiroshima University and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Among the attendees was Maohi - indigenous French Polynesian - youth delegate,Tamatoa Tepuhiarii.

"I feel empowered, empowered to contribute for my community," Tepuhiarii said.

He is aiming to do a PhD in anthropology, and said he wants to examine nuclear impacts on Maohi people.

"My Grandpa, he worked on Mururoa, and he died suddenly; he just fell suddenly and my mum told me that the blood came out from his mouth.

"We know now that his death is related to the nuclear testing period," he said.

From 1966 French Polynesia's Mururoa Atoll was the subject of nuclear weapons testing by France, that is where Tepuhiarii's grandfather worked, unaware of the devastating consequences to come.

Some of the explosions were 200 times the strength of the bombs dropped by the United States on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

"We can see the impact of nuclear weapons on our society, on the Maohi society," he said.

"Nuclear testing period, and particularly nuclear testing, has impacted the whole society now 27 years after the last bomb, which exploded in Fangataufa, not only Mururoa but Fangataufa Atoll," Tepuhiarii said.

For Tepuhiarii, learning more about his family's nuclear history is vital, to preserve the knowledge and share the stories of those who have suffered and continue to suffer.

The youth summit statement noted the concerns some Pacific Nations have on Japan's plans to release over one million tonnes of ALPS treated radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.

"[We] support in solidarity with the states who sit on the frontlines of this crisis and see this as an act of trans-boundary harm upon the Pacific," the joint statement said.

Eleven requests have been made for G7 countries to take onboard including, "sincerely committing to steps towards nuclear disarmament".

"We urge you to take bolder and more decisive actions by honouring our recommendations," the G7 youth statement requested.

The official G7 meeting with world leaders starts on May 19.