Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution renounces war as a means of settling international disputes and prohibits the maintenance of armed forces and other war potential. Article 9 is an international oath declaring No to War, a shared property of all the world’s citizens who wish for peace.
Today, however, the Japanese government is moving towards amending Article 9, partly due to the U.S. demand for full-fledged military support from Japan in its “war on terror”. Despite the restrictions of Article 9, Japan’s Self-Defence Forces have gradually expanded over the years, bringing Japan’s military expenditure to one of the highest in the world, and they provided support to U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The move to amend Article 9 for the worse gathered speed during former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s tenure. In September 2006, Abe announced he would seek a constitutional revision within five to six years. In May 2007, the Japanese Diet passed legislation to hold a national referendum to revise the constitution and amend Article 9. Although Abe is no longer in power, Article 9 related debates have continued to inflame Japanese politics, especially around the renewal of the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law, which has authorized the Maritime Self-Defense Force to refuel US vessels in the Indian Ocean for their operations in Afghanistan. In light of the difficulty to renew this bill, some government officials are calling for a permanent law to dispatch Self-Defense Forces overseas whenever necessary, a move perceived as a first step towards amending Article 9.
As the debate over revising the Constitution has accelerated, Japanese civil society has increasingly mobilized.
In 2005, Japan-based international NGO Peace Boat, together with the Japan Lawyers’ International Solidarity Association (JALISA), launched the Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War. This campaign strives not only to protect Article 9 locally, but also to build an international movement supporting Article 9 as the shared property of the world, calling for a global peace that does not rely on force. With support of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), the Japan Organizing Committee of the Global Article 9 Conference was launched in January 2007. This group comprises representatives from well over 60 Japan-based civil society organizations, including peace, religious and women groups, academic and medical institutions, legal associations and unions.
Global Impact of Article 9
Indeed, Article 9 is not just a provision of the Japanese law; it also acts as an international peace mechanism towards reductions in military spending, promotion of nuclear-weapon-free zones, ending violence against women, supporting conflict prevention, and mitigating the negative environmental impact of the military.
International civil society organizations have recognized the global impact of Article 9, including its relevance in regards to human rights, disarmament, nuclear weapons abolition, conflict prevention, development, the environment, globalization, UN reform and other global issues.
At the regional level, in July 2005, the UN-convened Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) submitted an action agenda for North East Asia that declared that “Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution has been the foundation for collective security for the entire Asia Pacific region.”
Likewise, in December 2007, the Asia Inter-Religious Conference on Article 9 and Peace in Asia brought together religious leaders from all over Asia, Europe and the US, and issued a final statementcalling on religious circles to support our campaign and encourage participation in the Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War in May.
At the international level, a strong international network of individuals and NGOs has formed in support of the campaign. And a growing number of groups continue to join, from the anti-war movement in the US, to organizations working for peace in Africa or the Middle East, NGOs lobbying for disarmament in Europe and women’s group acting worldwide.
The world today remains threatened by the continuation of violent conflicts, the proliferation of arms, and environmental destruction. Within this situation, Article 9 paves the way for the adoption of non-violent alternatives to dealing with such international crises. This movement thus demonstrates that Article 9 is not merely a domestic Japanese issue; rather, it is one of immediate international relevance.
This growing international movement of support makes clear that the world does value Article 9 as an ideal to which all people aspire, as a model to follow.
In a world where the chain of violence and war continues unbroken and militarization is gathering speed, the existence of Japan’s Article 9 provides encouragement to those who work towards a peace that does not rely on force. Article 9 gives hope – hope that an other world is possible.
The Article 9 Campaign demonstrates the active value of Article 9 and proposes ways to realize its potential. To that end, the Campaign links Article 9 to other international norms and institutions, notably the United Nations, whose Charter calls for decreases in military expenditure and the reallocation of limited resources to solving poverty and to protecting humans from war and violence.
Inspired by the 1999 Hague Appeal for Peace’s call that “every Parliament should adopt a resolution prohibiting their government from going to war, like the Japanese Article 9,” and the 2006 Vancouver World Peace Forum’s declaration that calls “for governments to constitutionally renounce war (e.g. Japan’s Article 9)”, we are urging global civil society to spread the “No War, No Military” message and lobby their governments to include this concept in their own countries’ constitutions.