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10/14/2015 3:06:00 PM
Pope's remarks seen as road map for U.N.
Catholic News ServiceThe Vatican flag flies with the flags of nations outside the U.N. headquarters in New York Sept. 25.
Catholic News Service
The Vatican flag flies with the flags of nations outside the U.N. headquarters in New York Sept. 25.
Catholic News Service

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 U.N. 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 U.N., said Pope Francis described “an urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the nonproliferation 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 coexistence,” 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 U.N., 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,” he 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 U.N., 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 U.N. 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 U.N., I can’t even imagine,” Won-soo said.

The U.N. 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.

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