Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
23 August 2016
The Holy See commends the Presidency of Malaysia for bringing this topic to the attention of this Chamber and the entire International Community.
At the very outset, my delegation wishes to reiterate the Holy See’s constant and firm opposition to the production and use of weapons of mass destruction. Any act, any weapon that aims indiscriminately to destroy entire cities or extensive areas, together with their inhabitants, is against all international humanitarian law and merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.
While treaties and conventions have been reached to ban chemical and biological weapons and prevent the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, human genius continues to invent new ways of annihilating itself. For instance, conventional weapons are becoming less and less “conventional” as technological advances elevate their power to destroy to the level of weapons of mass destruction.
For this reason, the Holy See recommends that discussions on weapons of mass destruction go beyond the traditional categories of nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiological weapons to include devastatingly powerful conventional weapons used to perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity. Military forces, rebels, terrorists and extremist groups use with greater frequency ever more powerful conventional weapons, showing scant regard for civilian immunity, discrimination, or proportionality.
Indeed, humanitarian disasters that continue to unfold in real time before our very own eyes show us that schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure are blown up by the incessant use of powerful conventional weapons. The tens of millions of refugees and displaced persons send an important message to this Chamber today: We must flee or die as our cities and communities are entirely devastated, not by nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, but by powerful conventional weapons. These tragedies appeal to the international community to implement strictly all legally binding treaties and instruments on the prohibition and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and urgently to review existing classifications and definitions of what constitutes a weapon of mass destruction.
In this very Chamber and in other fora, the Holy See has repeatedly called on the weapon producing nations of the world to severely limit and control the manufacture and sale of weapons to unstable countries and regions of the world, where the likelihood of their illegal use and their falling into the hands of non-state actors is real and present. The proliferation of weapons, regardless of whether they are conventional or of mass destruction, simply aggravates situations of conflict and results in huge human and material costs, profoundly undermining development and the search for lasting peace. Indeed, non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament underpin global security and sustainable development. Without them, the achievement of the much-vaunted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will be seriously jeopardized.
Double standards in the implementation of treaties and conventions on the prohibition and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction can only encourage disregard for the very same treaties and conventions on the part of those who are aggrieved or discriminated against. The discrimination between countries with and countries without weapons of mass destruction cannot be a permanent situation. If it is unthinkable to imagine a world where weapons of mass destruction are available to all, it is reasonable to imagine, and to work collectively for, a world where nobody has them. The international community must thus appeal and act with one voice to ban all weapons of mass destruction. This objective requires the continued advocacy and cooperation of all, because much remains to be done to achieve it.
There is no doubt that every step towards banning weapons of mass destruction is a giant step towards achieving a better world.
Thank you, Mr. President.