October 30, 2018
Programme of Action on Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons

Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the
United Nations

Seventy-third Session of the United Nations General Assembly
First Committee Thematic Discussions: Conventional Weapons
Implementation of the Programme of Action on Illicit Trade in SALW

New York, 30 October 2018


Mr. Chair,

Addressing the problem of excessive accumulation and illicit trade in conventional arms, the Secretary General highlights that “on average, every 15 minutes, the use of a firearm results in a violent death somewhere around the world. The widespread availability of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition is a key enabler of armed violence and conflict. High levels of arms and ammunition in circulation contribute to insecurity, cause harm to civilians, facilitate human rights violations and impede humanitarian access.” Yet, according to the Secretary-General, “efforts by the United Nations to address the problems posed by illicit small arms have been fragmented and limited.”[1]

The Holy See strongly supports multilateral efforts to curb the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons, in particular those efforts to provide assistance to States plagued by armed violence, which strive to stop the illegal movement of weapons and to ensure the collection and destruction of those already in circulation. Thus my Delegation welcomes the unanimous vote in the Third Review Conference on the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, and believes that the International Tracing Instrument is a very significant measure in this regard. Curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons, as the Program of Action states, enhances “respect for life and the dignity of the human person through the promotion of a culture of peace.”

As several Delegations pointed out at the Third Review Conference, greater international cooperation and assistance are needed in order to restrict severely, and, in so far as possible, to eradicate, the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. As the Secretary-General states: “The current paradigm of short-term and compartmentalized projects to address small arms control is not keeping up with the seriousness and magnitude of the problem.” There is therefore “a clear need for the United Nations to pursue a new model for sustained and coherent funding for international assistance for the control of small arms and light weapons.” The Secretary General’s call for the establishment of a trust facility through the Peacekeeping Fund, to provide a more sustainable way of implementing effectively the Program of Action and the International Tracing Instrument, is a significant step in the right direction, especially since it is aimed at addressing all dimensions of illicit small arms, including, inter alia, the promotion of peace education.[2]

Mr. Chair,

A secure world is essential for development and thus for the fight against extreme poverty. Pope Paul VI said in 1967 that development is the new name for peace, an affirmation echoed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development when it underlines: “There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development."[3] An important component of the overall effort to bring peace and development is, as Sustainable Development Goal 16.4 states, to “significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows” by 2030.

Three years ago, Pope Francis asked the US Congress: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?” He said that sadly, it is “simply for money, money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”4 His words apply with particular force to those who profit from the sale of illicit weapons to entities and individuals involved in such horrendous activities as terrorism, large-scale theft, oppression of the poor and defenseless, and organized crime, such as the trade in narcotics, trafficking in persons and the illegal wildlife trade.

Mr. Chair,

It is our duty to confront the problem of illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons. We welcome the progress that has been made to date, and are committed to help carry it forward.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

1. Securing our Common Future. An Agenda for Disarmament, pages 40-41.
2. Ibidem, page 41.
3. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Preamble.
4. Pope Francis, Address to the Joint Session of the United States Congress, 24 September 2015.