Holy See: ever rising military expenditure is ‘scandalous’
By Lisa Zengarini
“In the face of a world pandemic of uncertain duration, during which social and economic crises remain severe, and the increasingly serious effects of global climate change, it is scandalous that military expenditures continue to be on the rise, diverting potential resources from addressing poverty, inequality, injustice, education and health”.
This message was reiterated on Tuesday by Msgr John Putzer, chargé d'affaires of the Holy See's Permanent Mission to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva, speaking at the Sixth Review Conference of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (CCW). The session is taking place in Geneva from 13-17 December.
A false "logic”
Recalling that disarmament, development, and peace “are three interdependent issues”, the Vatican representative emphasized that the link of national security to the accumulation of weapons is a “false logic”: “While there are understandable concerns for effective security and the legitimate right to self-defense, it is a deceptive and self-defeating logic to think that the security and peace of some could be somehow separated from the collective security and peace of others”, he said. Instead, “international security and peace are best achieved through the promotion of a culture of dialogue and cooperation, through peace education, and not through an arms race in which civilians always and inevitably bear the highest price”.
Regarding the implementation of the UN CCW Convention - which was first established in 1980 with the aim to prohibit or restrict the use of certain conventional weapons which are considered excessively injurious or whose effects are indiscriminate - the Vatican representative highlighted three issues which are of particular concern to the Holy See.
The first issue concerns explosive remnants of war that are not only posing a safety problem for the local population, but also a national and regional security problem. In this regard, Msgr. Putzer emphasized the urgent need to step up universalization efforts of CCW Protocol V addressing post-conflict remedial measures in order to minimize the occurrence and effects of explosive remnants of war, as well as international cooperation, to assist affected countries “in a true spirit of fraternity”.
The Holy See is also concerned about the illicit traffic of small arms and light weapons, as well as explosive weapons, particularly in populated areas, which have become less and less “conventional” and more and more “weapons of mass destruction” and displacement, affecting peoples’ prospects for integral human development.
The Vatican representative then called attention to the use of incendiary weapons, reiterating the Holy See’s support for a legal review of the provisions contained in Protocol III of the Convention in order to strengthen this instrument “so as to remain relevant in today’s conflicts and enhance the protection granted to the civilians and combatants”.
Mgsr. Putzer finally focused on “new” weapons, including, amongst others, laser weapon systems, radio-frequency and other direct energy technology, anti-satellite weapons, and weaponization of artificial intelligence.
In this regard, he reiterated the Holy See’s call on other High Contracting Parties “to be mindful of prevailing humanitarian and ethical considerations” recalling the “importance of pursuing every effort which may contribute to progress towards general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control”, as affirmed in the CCW Preamble.