U.N. Meeting on Excessive Conventional Weapons

Author: Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi

U.N. Meeting on Excessive Conventional Weapons

Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi
Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Geneva

Holy See reaffirms its call for a moratorium on cluster bomb

The 14th Session of the Group of Government Experts of the States Parties to the Convention on Prohibition or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be Deemed to be Excessively injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects (CCW), met in Geneva from 19 to 23 June. Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Geneva, addressed the Convention on 19 June. The following is a translation of Archbishop Tomasi's intervention, given in French.

Mr. President-Designate,

The Holy See Delegation is pleased to tell you how deeply it appreciates the energy and competence that you invest in serving the aims of the CCW, whose first and ultimate goal is respect for the dignity of the human person before, during and after armed conflicts.

In 2006, the CCW is arriving at a crossroads that will be crucial for its credibility, development and effectiveness. Important deadlines will test the sense of responsibility, pragmatism and creativity of the States Parties to make satisfactory decisions on a certain number of subjects.

The Study Conference in 2006 will be an important milestone and test. The corning into force of Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War, whose implementation is a challenge to be confronted. is a decisive appointment.

Negotiations on mines other than anti-personnel landmines, which are at a critical phase, need to make a qualitative breakthrough. Discussions on cluster munitions risk continuing indefinitely, and a new end collective outlook on this subject is urgently needed.

The success of every instrument, the CCW for instance, must be measured by its ability to make a difference in the lives of the individuals and communities it is intended to protect and promote. The growing tendency to empty instruments of their content during the negotiations phase prior to their adoption is a trap. Demanding, effective and appropriate instruments are in the common interest.

Appalling effects of cluster bombs

Mr. President-Designate, permit me to devote a few minutes to the matter of "submunitions", which in only opinion is a priority. The disastrous humanitarian impact of cluster bombs needs no further demonstration. After the approximately 60 years that these weapons have been in use, the consequences are glaring.

Their victims can be counted by the million, the regions affected continue to be prohibited to displaced persons for years after the end of wars, nor can they be used by the inhabitants.

Rather than discussing the evidence, the International Community should focus its attention on providing an appropriate solution. While this response is not forthcoming, it is abnormal to continue as it the problem did not exist.

While it may take some time to reach a consensus, the present and potential victims cannot wait.

For this reason, the Holy See Delegation repeats its urgent appeal for a moratorium on the use of cluster munitions until an agreement on the matter has been concluded.

However, this does not imply that in the meantime room should not be made for basic work and structured discussions to be organized, preferably within the framework of CCW.

The current mandate is truly minimal and can in no way reflect the pressing humanitarian needs and their consequences that thousands of people are suffering in many regions of the world. A responsible attitude requires that the States Parties to the CCW look at this problem with a specific and urgent approach during the Study Conference.

In this context, the Holy See is willing to work with other delegations, U.N. agencies and NGO's, especially the Cluster Munition Coalition, to advance the cause of cluster-bomb victims and prevent others from suffering the same fate. A specific mandate to address this issue seems to us to be indispensable. Its ultimate goal should be the adoption of a juridically restricting instrument that would put an end to a humanly untenable situation.

Mr. President-Designate,

The lessons learned from implementating the Ottawa Convention can be very useful to us in the context of the CCW: an approach that is pragmatic, less formal, geared to results, inclusive and cooperative, in which the States, the United Nations, International Organizations and NGOs meet to work together.

Security and stability easily exceed the military domain. The famous balance between military needs and emergency humanitarian needs must not become an excuse for preserving the status quo.

Greater respect for human dignity and international humanitarian law, greater justice and greater development are in both the short and long term the best guarantee for the security of States.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
6 September 2006, page 5

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