Statement at the General Debate of the First Committee of the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
New York, 11 October 2023
My delegation congratulates you on your election and would like to assure you of our full support during this session.
As the world experiences “a third world war fought piecemeal” and the threat of nuclear war returns, “the world once more feels fear and anguish”. Pope Francis has warned us that “we cannot resign ourselves to this scenario”. Amid this paucity of hope, “we need the audacity of peace”, which moves beyond a cold realism, partisan considerations and narrow, strategic approaches that have failed to make peace a reality.
Achieving peace requires the international community to reject war as a means of Statecraft once and for all. In its place, the international community must ceaselessly work to foster a just peace: one that is “stable and lasting”, “built not on the precarious balance of deterrence, but on the fraternity that unites us”.
First and foremost, rejecting deterrence means eliminating nuclear weapons, which offer “only an illusion of peace”. While this illusion has maintained enduring appeal, it is important to recall that the widespread use of nuclear weapons—with their catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences—can only bring humanity the “dreadful peace of death”.
Avoiding such devastation requires a new foundation for the global security infrastructure. In this vein, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) offers a path forward for building a new security framework that places the dignity of the human person at its center and upholds the principle of sovereign equality among States.
In the face of regrettable blockage within the review process of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the TPNW offers hope to all that progress towards a world free from nuclear weapons remains achievable. In light of this, my delegation calls on all States to join the TPNW and to forever renounce the use of atomic energy for the purposes of war.
A world free from nuclear weapons cannot be realized except on the basis of trust, which is sustained and reinforced by verification measures. In this regard, the Holy See commends the verification work undertaken by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and expresses hope that the Second Meeting of States Parties (2MSP) of the TPNW takes meaningful steps towards laying a foundation for measures to verify the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Moving towards a world free from nuclear weapons necessitates not only a reconsideration of security doctrines and adequate verification measures, but also the provision of assistance to those who have suffered due to the development, production and testing of nuclear weapons, as well as the remediation of environments contaminated by such activities. In this regard, the Holy See looks favorably upon the draft resolution co-sponsored by Kazakhstan and Kiribati, which aims to address the legacy of nuclear weapons. It is the sincere hope of my delegation that all States—especially those that rely on nuclear deterrence—engage constructively in rectifying the injustices spawned by nuclear weapons.
Building a new framework for global peace also calls the international community to address new and emerging technologies.
First, this means ensuring that deadly weapons remain only in the hands of humans, who—endowed with individual conscience—alone can ensure that the use of such instruments remains in line with international humanitarian law. Providing machines with the capacity to maim and kill autonomously is not only legally questionable, but also morally abhorrent. In this regard, the Holy See welcomes the Secretary-General’s recommendation that States “conclude, by 2026, a legally binding instrument to prohibit lethal autonomous weapon systems that function without human control or oversight”.
Second, States must ensure that dual-use technologies with the potential for mass and indiscriminate destruction remain solely used for peaceful purposes. This is especially urgent for new developments in biotechnology. Given the complexity of this task, it is most welcome that the Ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) agreed to establish a Working Group, with a mandate to address international cooperation and assistance, scientific developments and verification. Appropriately addressing these issues will promote the role of biological sciences in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while building mutual trust among States.
Third, the international community must avoid fragmentation in managing the security challenges posed by cyberspace. Having adopted two resolutions by vote regarding this topic during the 77th Session of the General Assembly, this Committee runs the risk of creating duplicate institutions. Competing fora will undermine efforts to govern cyberspace, while placing a strain on smaller delegations. With this in mind, my delegation calls for renewed determination to return to consensus on this topic.
While emerging technologies confront us with new and potential threats, conventional weapons continue to injure and kill hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters worldwide. Expenditures on arms continue to grow to disturbing new highs, increasing the potential severity of conflict and starving the 2030 Agenda of much-needed funds. In light of this, the Holy See calls on all States to reconsider their spending priorities, with an interest of promoting a culture of peace and life, rather than one of war and death.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
 Pope Francis, Address to Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, 9 January 2023.
 Pope Francis, Message to the Participants in the International Prayer Meeting for Peace Organised by the Community of Sant’Egidio, 5 September 2023.
 Pope Francis, Address to the Security Council of the United Nations, 14 June 2023.
 Pope Francis, Letter to Bishop of Hiroshima On the Occasion of the G7 Summit, 19 May 2023.
 Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 7 December 1965, 82.
 Secretary-General of the United Nations, Our Common Agenda Policy Brief 9: A New Agenda for Peace, July 2023, 27.