Holy See Urges a Treaty on Small-Arms Trade

Requires Political Will and Better-Focused Research, Says Archbishop

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NEW YORK, JAN. 10, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See appealed to the international community to prepare and adopt a treaty to regulate the trade of small arms and light weapons.

The Vatican believes that such a measure will also contribute to combat terrorism.

The appeal was made Monday by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, when addressing a session of a U.N. preparatory committee.

The panel is preparing for a U.N. conference to review progress made in a program aimed at halting the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. The conference will held June 26-July 7.

Archbishop Migliore said that the adoption in 2001 of the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects “is having important repercussions on the promotion of disarmament, peace and post-conflict reconstruction, the fight against terrorism and large- and small-scale organized crime.”

Uprooting

Referring to the upcoming U.S. conference, the archbishop said that it would “be most useful to start a serious reflection on the possibility of negotiating a legally binding instrument on international arms trade, such as an arms trade treaty, based on the more important principles of international law, and in particular on both human rights and humanitarian law.”

“Such an instrument,” the papal representative said, “could greatly contribute to uprooting the illicit traffic in arms and to underlining the responsibility of states to strengthen further the international regime on small arms and light weapons.”

The United Nations estimated that there are more than 600 million small arms and light weapons in circulation worldwide.

Of 49 major conflicts in the 1990s, 47 were waged with small arms as the weapons of choice.

Small arms are responsible for over half a million deaths per year, including 300,000 in armed conflict and 200,000 more from homicides and suicides.

Archbishop Migliore observed: “If we consider both the humanitarian costs of the small arms and light weapons and the profound connection between them, and the process of human and sustainable development, then it becomes clear that greater attention now needs to be paid to reducing the demand for small arms and light weapons.”

Culture of peace

The Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations continued: “To reduce drastically the demand for small arms requires not only political will but better focused research into the dynamics of conflicts, crimes and violence.

“This obliges us to act responsibly to promote a real culture of peace and life among all members of society. Adequate international norms and programs to address the question of demand are also needed urgently, as well as the implementation of educational and awareness activities through, among other things, the involvement of civil society.”

Earlier Monday, in his address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, Benedict XVI affirmed: “On the basis of available statistical data, it can be said that less than half of the immense sums spent worldwide on armaments would be more than sufficient to liberate the immense masses of the poor from destitution. This challenges humanity’s conscience.”

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