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Week of October 31, 2016
Week in Review


Elimination of
Racism, Racial Discrimination,
Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance

Third Commitee

On November 1, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN gave an intervention at the Third Committee of the Seventy-First Session of the General Assembly on Agenda item 66, dedicated to the "Elimination of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and related Intolerance."

In its statement, the Holy See stressed the importance of combating discrimination and xenophobia, particularly in the context of global migration and displacement. The Holy See noted how many refugees and migrants are dying and shared the Holy Father's appeal for the human family to regard migrants and refugees as people "whose dignity is to be protected, and who are capable of contributing to progress and the general welfare." The Holy See expressed its concern over the growing number of violent racist and xenophobic and called for the international community to adopt all necessary measures to fight discrimination and intolerance, which is contrary to the dignity and equality inherent in all human beings.

The statement can be found here.


Promotion and
Protection of Human Rights

Third Committee

On October 31, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN gave an intervention at the Third Committee of the Seventy-First Session of the General Assembly dedicated to Agenda item 68 (b,c), concerning the “Promotion and protection of human rights.”

In its statement, the Holy See stressed that at the heart of human rights is the recognition that all human beings have equal human dignity and value and a fundamental right to life that should be upheld and protected at all stages of human existence. The Holy See said that the Third Committee’s discussions ought to prioritize this right in its consideration of the unborn, migrants, victims in armed conflict, the poor, elderly and those facing the death penalty. It commended the Committee for recognizing that the right to life concerns not only direct acts or omissions by States to deprive individuals of life but also to address deprivations of that right in poverty, grossly inadequate living situations and homelessness. Global consensus to eliminate the use of the death penalty is a welcome step toward protecting life. A constitutive element of human rights and dignity requires recognizing the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the right to change one’s religion or belief and to manifest that belief in teaching, preaching, worship and observance. Some are being persecuted, imprisoned and killed in different parts of the world solely because of religious belief. The Holy See said that the protection and promotion of freedom of religion or belief is of fundamental importance if we are going to make progress in the protection and promotion of human rights.

The statement can be found here.


United Nations Relief and Works Agency
for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

Fourth Committee

On November 4, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN gave an intervention at the Fourth Committee of the Seventy-First Session of the General Assembly on Agenda item 49, dedicated to the “United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).”

In its statement, the Holy See extended prayers and condolences to the families of UNRWA workers killed while providing humanitarian aid and discussed the financial and humanitarian woes that affect more than five million Palestinians. It described the work of various Catholic agencies that, like UNRWA, care for those affected, particularly the internally displaced and refugees, who are subject to heinous crimes. The Holy See thanked Lebanon and Jordan for their collaboration with UNRWA in caring for those fleeing Palestine, Iraq and Syria and called for international assistance to both countries to deal with the millions of refugees in their territories. Instead of violence and war, there must be peacemaking and substantive dialogue, the Holy See stated; instead of the floods of weapons, there must be the influx of accessible humanitarian assistance.

The statement can be found here.


Rethinking General and
Complete Disarmament in the 21st Century

First Committee

On October 27, at a side event of the first Committee of the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Chile and Timor-Leste to the United Nations and organized by the Strategic Concept for Removal of Arms and Proliferation (SCRAP) program at the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London in order to mark the Launch of the UN Office of Disarmament Affair’s Publication Rethinking General and Complete Disarmament in the Twenty-First Century, Msgr. Simon Kassas, First Counselor of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See and Dr. Pierce Corden, Advisor to the Mission, gave the following statement.


Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Holy See Mission is pleased to be here today as the Office of Disarmament Affairs launches its new publication Rethinking General and Complete Disarmament in the Twenty-First Century.

As the publication makes clear, the objective of general and complete disarmament is hardly a new one.  It started in the 1950s and 1960s to advance international security in a system of global governance not relying on the military forces of a State – forces often aligned against other States in great numbers and with enormous destructive capabilities. The Holy See has throughout this era advocated for global security not dependent on such military forces.

At the time of extraordinary danger manifest in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Pope John XXIII, in his encyclical Pacem in Terris, wrote, “The fundamental principle on which our present peace depends must be replaced by another, which declares that the true and solid peace of nations consists not in quality of arms but in mutual trust alone.”  However long in the future that may be, Pope John realistically advocated “that the stockpiles that exist in various quantities should be reduced equally and simultaneously by the parties concerned, that nuclear weapons should be banned, and finally that all come to an agreement on a fitting program of disarmament, employing mutual and effective controls.”

That recommendation sounds very much like the undertaking of the parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and it is helpful to quote Article VI in its entirety:  “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

In our present efforts to establish a safer, more secure and stable world, the Holy See has continued to challenge the disparity between the resources dedicated to military means to accomplish that objective and those devoted to addressing underlying insecurity and instability, frequently fed by great disparities in standards of living and even by the lack of basic essentials for a decent human existence.

The Holy See has recognized that the availability of weapons, especially in conflicted areas and often acquired illegally, contributes to global instability, and makes resolution of conflicts between groups of different political persuasions, ethnicity or religion even more difficult to resolve. In his address to the U.S. Congress in September 2015, Pope Francis said, “Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problems and to stop the arms trade.”

In His address to the United Nations shortly thereafter, Pope Francis spoke at some length on war and peace. After stressing the relevance of the UN Charter and its summons to avoid the scourge of war, he declared, “War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment. If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and peoples.”

At the level of disarmament efforts directly considered, the Holy See is a party to a number of arms control agreements, including the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. It is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency and has ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.  It is an original partner in the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification, testimony to its realization that moving to general and complete disarmament will necessarily require strict and effective verification.

It seems clear that the part of Article VI of the NPT that envisions moving to complete nuclear disarmament cannot be fully met without also moving toward general and complete disarmament involving all weapons; if for no other reason, the defense postures of the non-nuclear-weapon state members of the NATO alliance, and the Asian allies of the United States, continue to include the provision of nuclear extended deterrence. In eliminating nuclear weapons, those states will look to security arrangements that eliminate other threats, arrangements that will surely involve substantial modifications to conventional force structures.  A similar observation can be made about the conjunction of nuclear and conventional weapons in the conflict between India and Pakistan and in the complicated security situations in the Middle East and in Northeast Asia.

Since the NPT entered into force in 1970, conventional arms control has advanced in remarkable ways, if not always in the forward direction. The achievements following the Helsinki Final Act of 1973 are good examples. Despite its present moribund state, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty achieved reductions in several categories of weapons, including tanks and attack aircraft. The Vienna Document’s promotion of confidence and security-building measures and the Treaty on Open Skies have been fairly successful.  Globally, there is the Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel landmines, the several components of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, and the Arms Trade Treaty. And here in the First Committee we focus on several other aspects of conventional weapons.

Accordingly, as compared to the situation in 1970, there now exists a panoply of undertakings that contribute to taking further the basic project of moving away from reliance on military solutions to respond to conflicts between groups, be they states or other entities.  The member states of the United Nations, working in different coalitions, need to redouble their efforts to build on these undertakings and establish further non-military means to ensure security in this increasingly interrelated world. They need to do so with the objective of an international system not requiring military capabilities to maintain peace and security, however long achieving that objective may take.

Thank you for your attention.