Intervention of the Holy See
Second Review Conference
on the implementation of the Programme of Action
to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in
Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects
New York, 27 August - 7 September 2012
Allow me at the outset to congratulate you on your election to the Presidency of the 2012 Review Conference on the implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its aspects. My Delegation assures you of its full support in your efforts towards a successful outcome of this Conference.
The principal objective of this meeting is providing support to, and strengthening of, the international regime being developed for small arms and light weapons. This regime constitutes yet another step forwards along the path that leads to protecting efficaciously those human rights and international humanitarian law capable of enhancing “respect for life and the dignity of the human person, through the promotion of a culture of peace”, as reiterated in the Preamble of the Program of Action adopted in 2011 (art. 4).
Supporting this objective is the hope that the international community would find the wisdom and the courage necessary to re-launch disarmament and arms control in a convinced and responsible manner, providing concrete implementation of the right to peace due to every person and to all peoples. Committed to safeguarding peace, the various actors of the international community need to rediscover the authority, which is indispensible for rendering their initiatives credible and incisive. The first to benefit from a decisive choice in this regard will be the poorest of people, who, after so many promises, rightly demand the concrete implementation of the right to development.
These issues find an altogether appropriate application in our discussions: it is well known that when addressing the complex issue of small arms and light weapons, one is dealing with a multiplicity of aspects relevant not solely to disarmament processes, but also and especially to development geared toward promoting peace and combating the vicious cycle of destabilization resulting from the perverse use of such weapons, that represents a real barrier to development. In this context, these weapons can rightly be defined as “weapons of mass destruction of the poor”.
Over the past 10 years there have been several opportunities to strengthen the process of implementation of the Programme of Action. However, it should be noted that increasing efforts to develop greater international cooperation in this field and preventing the spread and availability of illicit small arms and light weapons, remain necessary.
As undertaken in previous meetings on the PoA, my delegation wishes to emphasize certain aspects deserving of greater attention in this important document, starting from the presupposition that an intimate relationship exists between weapons and violence as well as between weapons and destruction and likewise between weapons and hatred coupled with social disintegration. Accordingly, arms cannot be treated simply like any other commercial goods.
1) In the first place, it is important that the 2012 Review Conference agree to establish major international cooperative programs, mechanisms and guidelines to promote key aspects of the PoA in order to strengthen the prevention, reduction, control and accountability of these weapons. Such mechanisms may include the establishment of adequate standards for the management and security of SALW stockpiles; the defining of clear criteria for the export of arms as well as for collecting and destroying arms in peace processes; more regulated national controls on SALW production and transfers through a greater incisiveness with regard to issues of accountability, marking, tracing and brokering; the strengthening of the operational capacity to implement the laws and controls on the illicit arms trade; improved regional cooperation, even among law enforcement and border agencies and to a more effective technical assistance between States for the implementation of the PoA.
2) In the second place, it is important to address not only the supply side of the weapons in question, on which the Plan of Action focuses primarily, but also the demand for these weapons, a key element to avoid diverting small arms and light weapons into the illegal market. Bearing in mind not only the humanitarian costs of SALW, but also the profound links between them and the process of integral human development, actions aimed at reducing the demand for SALW have to be increasingly the object of our attention. Action at the level of demand requires deeper research pertaining to the dynamics of conflict, crime and violence, and calls us to responsible and committed action that promotes a real culture of life and of peace among all members of our society. This necessarily involves the responsibility of all actors to implement educational and awareness-raising initiatives that combat the culture of criminality and violence, together with a clear signal of political will towards the pursuit of this objective. We should take the opportunity of this Review Conference to recognize clearly the links between disarmament, development and humanitarian dynamics of SALW and to promote a greater commitment by all stakeholders towards adopting strategies and programmes aimed at decreasing the demand for these weapons and reducing gun violence.
3) A third aspect that stands at the heart of the Holy See’s concerns, closely linked with these preceding issues, regards the need to consider and to “address the special needs of children affected by armed conflicts, in particular: the reunification with their family, their reintegration into the society and their appropriate rehabilitation”, as indicated in paragraph II.20 of the Program of Action. Children in particular suffer a twofold evil effect: on the one hand, they are passively exposed to the dangers of these arms and, on the other hand, they find themselves an active part in conflicts when forced into the reprehensible role of child-soldiers. Such situations demand from the international community a strong and resolute reaction which shows particular concern for these children in various war zones and which works to reunite them with their families and to reintegrate them into society by all appropriate means of rehabilitation. Such attention should be paid particularly in the context of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes (DDR) in post-conflict situations, which must not only be included in peace agreements (as has now become practice), but also in projects of peace-keeping and development programs, through the adoption of "community-based” approaches. It merits mentioning that children represent the future of our society. Protecting and preserving their human and social growth, sparing such growth from a climate of violence and crime, making sure that this growth can be informed and formed by a culture of life and of peace; these are the principal means of ensuring the attainment of what is surely the ultimate goal uniting us in this endeavour, namely: the protection of the life and dignity of each and every human person, now and for future generations.
These are the three priority issues for my delegation. Certainly, they do not cover all the themes to be discussed during the Conference. We maintain great hopes that this Review Conference’s decisions will look forward with wisdom at the future of the international process on SALW and provide an adequate and effective follow-up to achieve outcomes.
Thank you, Madam President.