From WEEKLY MDS No.898, August 5, 2005 issue logo

Non-Defended Locality Declaration - Achieve Enactment of Ordinance / Leverage International Law to Change Our Communities

Path to abolition of war

How can we create a world free from war? One of the answers used to be "Spread Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan worldwide." Today, however, this is not a convincing option as Japan, under Article 9, has continued to enhance her military without restraint to the point where she looms as a military power and has dispatched troops all the way to Iraq.

Beyond the "Protect Article 9" campaign, we need to commit our all-out efforts to denounce war, and that is the Non-Defended Locality movement.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has issued the Commentaries on the Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions, stating as follows; "The fact that all combatants and military equipment must be evacuated is self-evident." "It is clear that factories situated in the locality should abstain from manufacturing weapons, ammunition or other objects of military use." "It is also clear that roads and railways passing through the non-defended locality must not be used for the movement of combatants or military equipment, not even for transit purposes." In short, a local entity can only declare itself a non-defended locality after removing all elements that could be a flash point for war.

In order to become a non-defended locality that would not be attacked in wartime, we need to work constantly in peacetime to refuse becoming a stronghold for attacking others. In this mechanism lies the potency of this movement as a vehicle for blocking war system buildup.

Shoulder to shoulder with the Iraqi people

The Non-Defended Localities movement is an offensive struggle that aims to dismantle the war system of global capitalism from local communities, leveraging international law that has been developing toward the illegalization of war.

This is what the movement has in common with the Iraqi Civil Resistance. The Manifesto of the Iraq Freedom Congress (IFC) sets out its goals as follows: To "dissolve all political, economic, military and paramilitary institutions set up by the US", and to "dissolve and disarm all armed and paramilitary groups linked to Islamic forces and lawless groups and confiscate all their weapons, resources and funds." In Basra, a militia belonging to the al-Sadr group was actually forced to dissolve its on-campus organizations in a victorious student-led struggle. Through social struggles to eliminate spaces for all military and armed groups, the Iraqis are enlarging democratic and multiethnic spaces where any ethnocentric or xenophobic propaganda is nullified. Thus, their struggle is heading toward exactly the same goal as the Non-Defended Localities movement.

On July 22, the Japanese government reportedly gave a cabinet approval to the "Resident Protection Plan" drawn out by Fukui and Tottori Prefectures. A local entity submits a plan, and the government has the power to give approval - this says a lot about the top-down nature of the civilian "protection" system without any sort of an equality-based relationship between the government and local entities.

Potential of direct petition approach

However, the responsibility for and power of security should not be monopolized by the state. The City of Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture, enacted the "Basic Autonomy Ordinance for the City of Yamato" in April this year, which includes an article that stipulates the following; "The mayor and the city assembly shall endeavor to achieve the transfer of Atsugi Base (of the US Navy and Maritime Self-Defense Force) in order to protect safety and security of residents of the city." The underlying idea is that the issue of the military base should naturally be included in the scope the local government's affairs as part of its autonomy because the presence of the base is actually threatening the rights that should be enjoyed by the residents of the city.

The issue of Non-Defended Locality declaration also directly affects the safety and welfare of local residents. It makes sense in every way for a local entity to issue such a declaration.

One aspect of the strength of the Non-Defended Localities movement is that it leverages direct petition for enactment of a Non-Defended Locality ordinance. Through this approach, a process works for citizens as a holder of the sovereign right to carve out their own political will in a draft ordinance and to actually achieve the enactment of the ordinance, which is in itself a process of restoring local autonomy that has been voided.

Since the enforcement of the Local Autonomy Law in May 1947, 1352 direct petitions for a local ordinance had been filed by March 1999. Among these, local ordinances have actually been approved in the relevant local assembly in 127 cases, which indicate that the more signatures that are collected, the higher the probability of success becomes. "Establish a community of peace and democracy through a Non-Defended Locality ordinance" - let us make this call heard by an overwhelming majority of the community to create an actual case of the enactment of a non-defended locality ordinance. (July 25)

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