By Lisa Zengarini
The Holy See has urged for renewed international efforts to curb the spread of nuclear material and technology and towards negotiating international rules and norms ensuring the peace and security of cyberspace.
The call is contained in the statement delivered on October 18 by the Vatican Mission to the United Nations at the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly, at a meeting of the First Committee on Disarmament Measures and International Security, Regional Disarmament and Security, and Disarmament Machinery.
Effective functioning of disarmament machinery needed
In his statement, Permanent Observer Archbishop Gabriele Caccia emphasized that the effective functioning of disarmament machinery is necessary “for the international community to rely less on force to resolve conflicts.” He also expressed the hope that the United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC) will be convened in person next spring and supported by all UN Member States.
Moving toward a nuclear-weapon-free world
The Commission has been unable to meet during the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, further delaying advancement of negotiations on disarmament measures, including the proposed Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) that would prohibit the production of the two main components of nuclear weapons: highly-enriched uranium and plutonium. The international agreement would, specifically, provide new restrictions for the five recognized nuclear-weapon States (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, and China), and for the four nations that haven’t joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea).
In his intervention, Archbishop Caccia renewed the Holy See’s call for UN Member States to support efforts by the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to achieve a consensus on further disarmament measures, noting that “since all States have committed to moving toward a nuclear-weapon-free world, it is unacceptable and contradictory that any State increase its fissile material for weapons purposes.”
Ensuring cybersecurity for peace
Regarding cybersecurity, the Vatican Observer said there is an urgent need to address the misuse of information and communication technologies to disrupt commerce and communication and undermine peace, security, cooperation, and trust. "A cyber tool may not look like a gun or a bomb," Archbishop Caccia said, "but its malicious use can be even more destructive on civilians, as seen in attacks on critical infrastructure such as medical facilities, energy systems, and water supplies". He also called attention to the ability to hack into the command and control of weapon systems, which could make possible the launch and detonation of a nuclear weapon.
Hence the need for rules and norms negotiated in an intergovernmental forum to ensure the peace and security of cyberspace. According to the Holy See, the Open-Ended Working Group established for this purpose is well suited to bring this about.
The Iranian and North Korean nuclear issues
In the final part of his statement, Archbishop Caccia addressed the Iranian and North Korean nuclear issues. He highlighted the need to restore the fully operational status of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed with Iran in 2015, saying this is a key step to preclude conflict in the Middle East. He also advocated for reviving the pursuit of a Middle East Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. Regarding the North Korean nuclear weapon program, he reiterated the Holy See’s earnest hope that there would be diplomatic breakthroughs in the near future.
"It is incumbent upon Member States to redouble their efforts to achieve progress across the entire range of arms control and disarmament issues" and "the Holy See delegation pledges its support for such redoubled efforts”, the Permanent Observer concluded.