October 17
First Committee Agenda Item 98 (c): Nuclear disarmament

Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
Seventy-first Session of the United Nations General Assembly
First Committee Agenda Item 98 (c): Nuclear disarmament
New York, 17 October 2016

Mr. Chair,

The Holy See has called for a total ban on nuclear weapons since the dawn of the nuclear age. In February 1943, two years and a half before the Trinity test, Pope Pius XII had already voiced deep concern regarding the violent use of atomic energy. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, observing the totally uncontrollable and indiscriminate consequences of nuclear weapons, Pope Pius XII demanded the effective proscription of atomic warfare, calling the arms race a costly relationship of mutual terror. My delegation would like to reiterate Pope Francis’ conviction that “the desire for peace and fraternity planted deep in the human heart will bear fruit in concrete ways to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all, to the benefit of our common home.”

The Holy See echoes the cry of humanity to be freed from the specter of nuclear warfare. It is important for every schoolchild to know that a nuclear war would have horrendous consequences for people and the whole planet. Thus the Holy See actively participates in the conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, and regularly supports the resolutions this Committee adopts and the steps individual States take that will contribute to nuclear disarmament and to the general and complete disarmament called for by Article VII of the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

Nuclear arms offer a false sense of security and the uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence is a tragic illusion. The indefinite possession of nuclear weapons is morally wrong, “an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations” and contradicts the United Nation’s vocation of service to humanity and the global common good.  The so-called “doctrine of nuclear deterrence” has made nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament more difficult, and raises the possibility of the actual intentional or accidental deployment of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons cannot create a stable and secure world. Peace and international stability cannot be established on mutually assured destruction or on the threat of total annihilation. Lasting peace cannot be guaranteed by the maintenance of a balance of terror. On the contrary, “Peace must be built on justice, socio-economic development, freedom, respect for human rights, and the participation of all in public affairs and the building of trust between peoples.”

The NPT enjoins us to make "good faith" efforts to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons and put in place confidence-building measures. The modernization programs of the nuclear weapons States, however, persist. Boycotts, threats and other forms of dissuasion against countries suspected of developing nuclear weapons will continue to lack credibility as long as nuclear weapons States not only hold onto but upgrade their nuclear weapons. For the NPT to be successful and general and complete disarmament to be achieved, nuclear weapons States must divest themselves of their nuclear arsenal, under strict international verification. This is part of the “grand bargain” that was and is the NPT.

Eight years ago, the Secretary-General launched a Five-Point Plan for Nuclear Disarmament, the centerpiece of which is the negotiation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention or a framework of instruments leading directly to a global ban on nuclear weapons. This Committee should therefore seriously pursue the recommendation made by the Open-Ended Working Group, with the majority support of the participating States, that the General Assembly convene a conference in 2017 “to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” It is incumbent upon this Committee to redouble its efforts to advance the recommendations of the Open-Ended Working Group, especially at a time when the disarmament machinery is at a standstill.

Mr. Chair,

The Holy See continues to urge for the rapid entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has just marked the twentieth anniversary of its opening for signature. It welcomes the adoption on September 23 of UN Security Resolution 2310, urging the eight States whose ratification remains necessary for the entry into force of the CTBT to sign and/or ratify it. There is no reason for procrastination.

The Holy See reaffirms its support of the NPT as vital to international peace and security and laments our collective failure to move forward with a positive disarmament agenda. As Pope Francis said in his Address to the General Assembly in September 2015, “There is an urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.”

Finally, the Holy See believes that negotiations on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament must be accompanied by negotiations on the balances and dispositions of conventional forces and their reductions, in the spirit of Article VII of the NPT.

The task we face is arduous and the challenges are multifaceted, but we must face them with hope, resolve and confidence.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Pope Francs, Message to the President of the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, December 2014.
Pope Francis, Address to the UN General Assembly, 25 September 2015.
Message of His Holiness Pope Francis on the occasion of the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, December 2014.