Pope Francis addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York Sept. 25. CNS photo//Mike Segar, Reuters

Popeat UN a boost for nuclear prohibition

By  Beth Griffin, Catholic News Service
  • October 16, 2015

UNITED NATIONS - In the warm afterglow of Pope Francis’ Sept 25 address to the General Assembly, veteran United Nations’ observers drew a starkly candid road map of urgent actions that the world body must take to achieve its security agenda.

Speakers at an Oct. 7 side event hosted by the Holy See’s permanent observer to the UN said the organization’s top priorities must be nuclear disarmament and the protection of civilians in conflict areas.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican’s ambassador to the UN, said Pope Francis described “an urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the non-proliferation treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.”

“Nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutually assured destruction cannot be the basis for an ethics of fraternity and peaceful co-existence,” Pope Francis said in an earlier message to an international conference in Vienna.

The Pope said it is immoral to possess nuclear weapons, because deterrence rests on the willingness to use them, panelists said.
Douglas Roche, former Canadian ambassador for disarmament to the UN, called for a nuclear weapons convention.

“It defies logic that the world has global treaties banning chemical and biological weapons but none banning nuclear weapons,” Roche said.
Nuclear powers are modernizing their nuclear arsenals “despite giving lip service to nuclear disarmament,” which will create “permanency in nuclear weapons” unless there is a convention or framework of legal instruments to outlaw the possession and use of “these instruments of evil,” he said.

Kim Won-soo, undersecretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs at the UN, said member states generally agree that the “destination” is a nuclear-free world, but there is no consensus on “how to get there.”

The Pope recognized that unless the entire world community addresses disarmament, peace and development as one, “we can’t survive,” Won-soo said.

The primary function of the United Nations is to provide a forum for “normative debate,” he said. Despite a frustrating lack of global leadership and unity of purpose, members have to sustain the organization and not give up, in part because the UN is the world’s largest social service provider.

“We now feed 100 million people a day and protect 60 million refugees a day. We are living in a troubled world. Without the UN, I can’t even imagine,” Won-soo said.

The UN must focus on the human face of international conflicts and help member states build capacity to make treaties, he said. Also, it must respond to new security threats, such as drones, robots and cyber threats from those who are not bound by existing legal agreements.

Roche said the international community could respond to the common call for human security by the UN and Pope Francis by establishing a permanent peacekeeping force for quick deployment in emergencies and institutionalize the UN’s responsibility to protect civilians from atrocities.
“It is scandalous that the major political leaders could not come to an agreement” in Syria, he said.

Auza said because of the urgent situation in Syria, his “first passion” is how to give a juridical framework to the responsibility to protect.

“The principle is universally accepted, but how can the international community apply it in concrete situations?

“The powerful states often treat the UN as if it were something to be tolerated rather than championed. They frequently marginalize the UN in the peacekeeping process instead of putting it front and centre,” Auza said.

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