UN Staff members folding origami cranes for the annual Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony
In commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima, dozens of staff members in New York City Headquarters and Tokyo folded a thousand origami cranes for the upcoming visit of the Secretary-General to Hiroshima in early August.
This is the first time in UN history that an incumbent Secretary-General will attend the annual Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony. The one thousand origami cranes will carry the good wishes of all UN staff to the people of the city of Hiroshima. Cranes, which symbolize longevity, are considered as mystical creatures in many parts of Asia. Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding. In Japan, it is said that folding 1,000 origami cranes makes a person’s wish come true. People often send these cranes to those who suffer from illness or ill fort-une in hope that their lives will improve. They are also a popular good-luck gift for family members and friends.
Spearheaded by Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka, the origami cranes project attra-cted much enthusiasm among staff members in New York and Tokyo. Staff from each duty station contributed 500 cranes, making the total number 1,000.
In Tokyo, around 60 staff members from UN Information Centre (UNIC) Tokyo, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations University (UNU), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Labour Organization (ILO), World Food Pragramme (WFP) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) participated in the project. The portion from New York was shipped to Tokyo to be chained together with the other half. More than three dozen staff members from various departments and offices contri-buted. Many of them were first timers and learned the art from their fellow Japanese colleagues. “It’s a good way to connect with people from diverse cultures,” said Edita Zulic, who learned how to fold origami cranes by participating in the project. “I think it’s a wonde-rful gesture that through this creative exercise, we could all contri-bute to the message of peace.”
The one thousand origami cranes became a symbol of world peace through the story of Sadako Sasaki, a little girl who was two years old when the first atomic bomb hit Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. After the incident, she suffered from various illness and eventually developed leukemia. When she was hospitalized, she started to fold origami cranes, hoping that she would recover from her illness and live a better life when completing one thousand cranes. Unfortun-ately, she was only able to make 644 cranes before she died at the age of 12. Sadako’s friends finished the rest of the thousand orig-ami cranes and buried them with her. From then on, the story of Sadako has become an inspiration to many people all over the world.
“The Secretary-General’s visit to Hiroshima is to be considered as an important step towards nuclear disarmament,” said USG Kiyo Akasaka. It comes at a time when global nuclear disarmament is highlighted as a top priority on the agenda of the Secretary-General. Following the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in May, the Secretary-General invited high level officials from all member states to a meeting in September to continue the disarmament negoti-ations. During his visit to Japan next week, the Secretary-General will make a speech and hand over the one thousand cranes to the Mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba, expressing the good wishes of all UN staff.