Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
Seventy-second Session of the United Nations General Assembly
First (Disarmament) Committee
Agenda Item 99: General and Complete Disarmament
New York, 16 October 2017
Nearly sixty years have passed since the Fourteenth Session of the General Assembly first addressed the need for general and complete disarmament, and nearly fifty years since the Treaty of Nuclear Nonproliferation (NPT) committed the States Party “to undertake to pursue negotiations in good faith on . . . a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
In those early years, plans came forth from powerful, nuclear-possessing States aimed at achieving this goal. For several years now, however, these hopeful signs of progress toward nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament have been dimmed, in spite of significant progress achieved through international treaties and conventions banning different classes of weapons, including nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, anti-personnel landmines cluster munitions, and conventional weapons which may be deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects.
Progress in the area of nuclear disarmament has not just stalled; indeed, there has been a regression, as older nuclear powers are engaging in a race to modernize their nuclear arsenals, making clear that the use of nuclear weapons remains a real option. Other States are simultaneously pursuing nuclear programs that threaten the viability of the NPT itself. Concerns over missile development in some countries today ought to awaken the world to the dangers of a global missile race.
Despite considerable progress in international legal frameworks to ban or control specific types of armaments, violent wars and conflicts persist, increase and worsen. In most cases, there has been utter disregard for International Humanitarian Law and every rule of human decency, as innocent civilians are directly attacked with weapons already proscribed by international treaties. Regional and global powers exacerbate the unstable conditions of their client States or regimes by selling or gifting them with weapons of deadlier firepower, even weapons of mass destruction and other banned weapons.
The Holy See is dismayed by the deep chasm that separates commitments from actions in the field of disarmament and arms control. While everyone condemns the grave effects of arms proliferation, nothing has substantially changed on the ground or in the bunkers, because, as Pope Francis observed: “We say the words ‘No more war!’ but at the same time we manufacture weapons and sell them… to those who are at war with one another.” The responsibilities of arms manufacturing and exporting States, especially those selling large weapons systems, to curb this trade are especially grave.
Against this troubling panorama, some may regard general and complete disarmament as an impractical aspiration, even a dangerous delusion. This should not be the case in this Committee. While more black spots might appear in the chiaroscuro of disarmament and arms control, the significant progress achieved in these areas must also be acknowledged, and all those who have worked hard to achieve every step forward toward general and complete disarmament deserve gratitude and appreciation. The UN Office of Disarmament Affairs, for instance, merits appreciation for all its efforts to advance general and complete disarmament, including its 2016 study “Rethinking General and Complete Disarmament in the Twenty-First Century.”
My Delegation would like to suggest that present and future deliberations on the goal of general and complete disarmament should not be reduced to a narrow, technical exercise in arms control, but rather be placed within a wider framework of the dynamics of peacekeeping, peacebuilding and peacemaking. In this respect, the laudable work of research institutions and of grassroots peacebuilders and peacemakers deserves serious attention. Extensive research on the dynamics of conflict and on the best lessons learned in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding are precious elements to move minds and hearts. They are indispensable to undertaking the pursuit of “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.”
Before concluding, I would like to note the forthcoming conference organized by the Holy See on November 10 and 11 in Rome, on “Perspectives for a World Free from Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament.” We are delighted that among the distinguished Speakers the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, will make a presentation. The Holy See hopes that the conference will add impetus to our work toward general and complete disarmament.
As the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, told the General Assembly on September 25: “All countries should take a decisive and urgent step back from the present escalation of military preparations. The largest countries and those who have a stronger tradition of respecting human rights should be the first to perform generous actions of pacification. All the diplomatic and political means of mediation should be engaged to avoid the unspeakable.”
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
1. See http://www.un-documents.net/a14r1378.html.
2. See http://www.un.org/en/conf/npt/2005/npttreaty.html.
3. For the U. K. proposal see, Official Records of the General Assembly, Fourteenth Session, Annexes, agenda item 70, document A/C.1/820, and Ibid, document A/4219 for the Soviet proposal. For the U.S. proposal, see Address of President John F. Kennedy to the General Assembly, 25 September, 1961 at https://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/DOPIN64xJUGRKgdHJ9NfgQ.aspx; and for the State Department plan, see http://galacticconnection.com/united-states-program-general-complete-disarmament-peaceful-world/.
4. Pope Francis, Interview with the Belgian Catholic weekly, “Tertio”, 7 December 2016.
5. See http://www.un.org/en/conf/npt/2005/npttreaty.html.