In an address yesterday to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent U.N. observer for the Holy See, called on the world body to more thoroughly analyze the reasons behind demand for small arms, so as to eradicate their illicit trade.
Archbishop Migliore’s address was given in New York to the "Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in All Its Aspects."
The Archbishop began by saying that the upcoming conference is likely to be the most important such meeting to take place since the U.N.‘s 2001 adoption of the "Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate Illicit Trade in SALW in All its Aspects” itself.
He pointed out that the program is "having important repercussions on the promotion of disarmament, peace and post-conflict reconstruction, the fight against terrorism and large- and small-scale organized crime."
"The 2006 conference”, he opined, “should agree to establish major international cooperative programs and mechanisms to promote key parts of the Program of Action, which may include stockpile management and security, weapons and ammunitions collection and their safe and secure destruction, and national controls on SALW production and transfers.”
Because of the potential success of the gathering, Archbishop Migliore suggested that the U.N. “start a serious reflection on the possibility of negotiating a legally binding instrument on international arms trade ... based on the more important principles of international law."
"The 2006 review conference”, he said, “could take useful steps to promote effective engagement on SALW, ... by launching a process enabling interested States and relevant organizations to flesh out principles, policies and programs that address the links between efforts to prevent and reduce SALW trafficking, proliferation and misuse.”
The Archbishop lamented that this process has too often “focused its attention on the supply side of arms sale.”
“However,” he said, “if we consider both the humanitarian costs of SALW and the profound connection between them, and the process of human and sustainable development, then it becomes clear that greater attention now needs to be paid to reducing the demand for SALW.”
He said that drastically reducing the demand for small arms “requires not only political will but better focused research into the dynamics of conflicts, crimes and violence.”
“This obliges us to act responsibly to promote a real culture of peace and life among all members of society,” he told the group.
The Vatican observer closed his address by stressing what he called the “urgent need” for "adequate international norms and programs to address the question of demand…as well as the implementation of educational and awareness activities through, among other things, the involvement of civil society."