Holy See appeals to UN to strive for complete disarmament

 Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations, spoke yesterday in New York at the general debate of the first committee on Agenda Item 74: General and Complete Disarmament. he said: "If we are to aspire to general and complete disarmament, we must first of all show a respect for life and the dignity and human rights of individuals, reject violence, promote freedom, justice, solidarity, tolerance and the acceptance of differences, and develop better understanding and harmony between ethnic, religious, cultural and social groups." Turning to the question of the "hard" and "soft" threats to world peace mentioned by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Archbishop Migliore explained that "among the hard threats are terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, while the soft threats include the persistence of extreme poverty, the disparity of income between and within societies, the spread of infectious diseases, and environmental degradation." The UN must, he said, confront both types of threats, and he added that on the specific question of disarmament, "the importance of dialogue, negotiation, diplomacy and reference to the rule of law in these proceedings cannot be over-estimated." "Small arms ought to occupy our immediate attention," the nuncio said, "for small arms and light weapons kill more than half a million people each year, including 300,000 in armed conflict and 200,000 from homicides and suicides, of which 90 per cent are civilians." He said small arms, among other things, augment conflicts, diminish opportunities for development and impede the tasks of aid workers. He pointed to the "terrifying" premise of the Cold War deterrence concept called MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), namely, that "one bloc's security can be defended by threatening the annihilation of the other bloc's population. ... The end of the Cold War should have seen the end of MAD policies that held the world in fear, but events over the past year have led to a certain resurgence in this thinking." The archbishop, noting that the world is threatened not only by nuclear arms but by chemical and biological weapons, decried the fact that "many arms treaties contain loopholes and weak points in terms of compliance, verification and enforcement." In concluding, he said: "all the steps that must be taken in the disarmament process may seem at times overwhelming. But if they are seen in the context of building a culture of peace, they are not perhaps so daunting. ... What is essential to fulfill the peace agenda is to change the attitude of both States and individuals. We must realize that violence is not the inevitable lot of mankind." Source: VIS

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