March 30, 2017
UN Conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination

Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the
United Nations

United Nations Conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination
United Nations Headquarters, New York, March 30, 2017

Madam President,

Pope Francis, in his Message to this Conference, reminded us that our work is “an exercise in hope […] and a decisive step along the road towards a world without nuclear weapons.”

The Holy See Delegation, without pretending to be exhaustive, would like to underline seven elements with regards to ethical and humanitarian issues that need to be taken into consideration in framing a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination:

First, peace consists in the enjoyment and exercise of fundamental human rights free from the threat of war and destruction or the fallout of weapons testing. The threat of mutually assured destruction through nuclear weapons cannot be the basis for an ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence among peoples and States.

Second, conditions of peace are created and fostered rather through encounter and dialogue, confidence building and practices of threat-reduction.

Third, it is incumbent on every State to do all it can to eliminate nuclear weapons, as mentioned in Article VI of the NPT: its double obligation of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament requires a clear obligation to destroy stockpiled nuclear weapons.

Fourth, the unnecessary sufferings that nuclear weapons inflict on those who survive, both combatants and non-combatants, are a violation of international humanitarian law, have long been banned in military codes and international law, and merit unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

Fifth, States must accept their responsibilities for victim assistance and environmental remediation in areas contaminated by their nuclear testing and accidents, and must assist in the resettlement of those who have been displaced by nuclear events. A treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons should follow the lead of recent international agreements that require States Parties to clear dangerous post-conflict and post-war remnants.

Sixth, we have an obligation to pursue initiatives to raise public awareness on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, and to educate every generation that lasting peace and security can never be achieved by military means alone, much less by the possession of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. We must be profoundly committed to strengthening mutual trust, and to secure the involvement of all in this Conference and in the dialogue surrounding it.
Seventh, we must invest in integral human development, which is the best way to guarantee international peace and security, more than we do on weapons. The Holy See considers that resources that are dedicated to nuclear weapons could be allocated better for development, especially for those left behind.

Madam President,

The Holy See hopes that these seven elements could be reflected in the draft we are negotiating.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963, Pope John XXIII appealed to Presidents Khrushchev and Kennedy to avert nuclear war. At that time, he reminded us of “one of the cardinal duties deriving from our common nature, namely, that love not fear must dominate the relationships between individuals and between nations.”

This conference is an act of defiance against the logic of fear. We may not immediately see it as an act of love, but surely it is a moment when together we live our collective humanity, redeeming our ties to the dead, honoring our commitment to our contemporaries, and keeping our promise to generations yet unborn.

Thank you, Madam President.