By Lisa Zengarini
“The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons heralds in a new era in international law and increasingly in public opinion” Cardinal Silvano M. Tomasi, has said.
In an exclusive interview with the World Council of Churches (WCC) the former Permanent Observer to the UN and Other International Organizations in Geneva and to the World Trade Organization reflects on the positive impact of the Treaty (TPNW) and how Churches can get involved in the goal of freeing the world of nuclear weapons.
The TPNW was adopted by the United Nations on 7 July 2017 and entered into force on 22 January 2021. For those nations who signed it, the Treaty prohibits the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as assistance and encouragement to the prohibited activities. For nuclear armed states joining the treaty, it provides for a time-bound framework for negotiations leading to the verified and irreversible elimination of its nuclear weapons program.
Acknowledging that “moral declarations alone will lead to disarmament”, in the interview Cardinal Tomasi, notes that the newly enacted norms “can support and even drive complex negotiations, hopefully toward achieving the goal of a world free from nuclear weapons”, stressing the need for non-nuclear weapons states to make their voices heard on this issue.
He also emphasizes the role of civil society actors and of Churches and religious communities: “In this area, religions and all denominations can converge and amplify together the same moral message for believers and non-believers alike”, he says, adding that “local initiatives are very important for moving towards total disarmament” and that “local actors can make their voices heard at higher levels, by contacting their representatives and networking online”.
Reminding that “the mere existence of nuclear weapons is a constant risk” and that “the pandemic has brought to light and intensified the extreme inequalities present in our societies”, the former Nuncio reaffirms that the establishment of a World Fund to address human development with the money previously invested in the military and weapons “is primary” in relation to the socio-economic issues we face today: “Pope Francis has recognized that the pandemic brings to light our true priorities and needs as a human family, and has encouraged deep reflection and active changes towards a world more committed to building just systems at the service of the people. It is not only a worthy goal, but a moral good”, he stresses. “Increased investments in arms arise from a feeling of insecurity, but a society can never be secure if the essential needs of its people are not met”, he explains.
According to cardinal Tomasi, the present pandemic could act as a “catalyst” toward this ambitious goal: “In economically difficult times for all states – including the great powers – being able to release funds to revive the economy is essential. Decreasing the funds allocated to the arms race and dedicating them to economic recovery is actually a strategic choice for those states that wish to maintain their preeminence within the international system. Their influence and power will soon be judged based on their ability to recover from the crisis”, he concludes.