December 15, 2016
Preventing catastrophe: A global agenda for stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by non-State actors

Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
Security Council Open Debate on
Preventing catastrophe: A global agenda for stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by non-State actors
New York, 15 December 2016

Mr. President,

The Holy See is grateful that the Presidency of Spain has brought the important subject of stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by non-State actors to the deliberation of this Council and to the attention of the International Community.

The involvement of non-State actors in wars and conflicts has been increasing lately and this has had horrendous effects on civilian populations, most especially women, children, the elderly and the disabled. Non-State actors use weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) with impunity and in total lawlessness, showing little or no regard for civilian immunity, for proportionality and for the discrimination between combatants and non-combatants. Today the staggering numbers of refugees and forced migrants worldwide bears witness to the devastation wrought by WMDs, along with frightfully potent conventional weapons.

Mr. President,

My delegation wishes to reiterate the Holy See’s constant and firm opposition to the production and use of weapons of mass destruction. Any act, any weapon that aims indiscriminately to destroy entire cities or extensive areas, together with their inhabitants, is against all international humanitarian law and all ideas of civilization, and merits unequivocal, unqualified and unhesitating condemnation.

The Holy See notes with grave concern that technological advances in the destructive power of weapons systems produces ever more frightening catastrophes for innocent civilian populations. Just a little more than a week ago, Pope Francis observed, “We say ‘Never again’ but at the same time we produce weapons and sell them to those who are at war with one another.”[1] This gifting and selling of arms takes place at different levels. Some States supply arms to client States even with the knowledge that they will be used to perpetuate mass atrocities, suppress fundamental human rights and turn back the development of entire peoples and nations. Transactions are often carried out through international crime syndicates, which, as Pope Francis stated last week, is “an easy way to grow rich, but the price is very steep: blood.”[2] Fighting and defeating the illegal and criminal arms trade is fundamental to preventing non-State actors from possessing and using weapons of mass destruction, and thereby to preventing the atrocities they will use those arms to commit. Strengthening relevant laws and conventions at the multilateral, bilateral and national levels is a necessary step in the right direction.

Mr. President,

Business as usual with regard to policies concerning weapons of mass destruction, and all weapons systems, must be replaced with a new global ethic. Profit, geopolitical advantages at any cost and the logic of fear and mistrust must be replaced by addressing the wider security, political, economic, and cultural dynamics that lead both State and non-State actors to seek security, legitimacy, and power in the production of weapons, rather than in expending their resources to promote socio-economic development, diplomatic and political participation, respect for fundamental human rights and the rule of law, and cooperation and solidarity at the regional and international level.

The Holy See has repeatedly called on weapons-producing nations severely to limit and control the manufacture and sale of weapons and ammunition to unstable countries and regions of the world where the likelihood of their illegal use or their falling into the hands of non-State actors is a real and present danger. The proliferation of weapons, regardless of whether they are weapons of mass destruction or “merely conventional,” simply aggravates situations of conflict and results in unimaginable human suffering and material costs, profoundly undermining development and the search for lasting peace.

Non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament underpin global security, respect for human rights and sustainable development. Without them, the achievement of the much-vaunted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will be seriously jeopardized. Without them, catastrophes that might have been prevented against persons and peoples will continue to occur. Without greater international and regional cooperation, especially among weapons-producing States, strictly to control and limit the movement of weapons of mass destruction, it is an illusion to talk of a global strategy to stop the proliferation of such weapons by and among non-State actors.

Thank you, Mr. President.

1. 7 December 2016, in an interview given to “Tertio”, a Catholic weekly newspaper in Belgium.
2. Idem.