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Holy See's Critique of 60th Session of U.N. General Assembly

Caveats on Arms Control, Health and Other Issues

NEW YORK, SEPT. 26, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is the statement of Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations and head of the delegation at the General Debate of the 60th Session of the U.N. General Assembly. He delivered it Friday.

* * *

Mr. President,

The summit marking the United Nations' 60th anniversary is over but, to bring it to completion, our work here must build upon its Outcome document, so as to fulfill with vision and determination the agreed package of reforms.

The Holy See, having followed the Outcome document's development closely, welcomes much of what is proposed. However, the lack of consensus on arms control and non-proliferation issues is regrettable. I should also like to add at the outset that the Holy See understands the references to both the Cairo and Beijing International Conferences and to reproductive health found in paragraphs 57 (g) and 58 (c) in the sense that it set out in its Reservations and statements of interpretation at those Conferences, that is, as applying to a holistic concept of health that does not consider abortion or access to abortion as a dimension of those terms. These caveats aside, the document is a basis for implementation and ongoing discussions on United Nations reform.

1. Peace and Security

Due to the human tragedies of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, the responsibility to protect, as reflected in the Outcome document, has gained more acceptance for humanitarian reasons. Its definitive legal formulation could greatly contribute to the enrichment not only of international law but also of sincere solidarity among nations. To identify carefully and honestly the causes of such man-made disasters is indispensable in creating more timely prevention measures. Protection of those in distress and assistance to them goes hand in hand with lucid analysis and public awareness of the causes of humanitarian crises.

The silence of the Outcome document regarding disarmament and non-proliferation is worrying. Nuclear armament is simply devastating for peoples and the environment; it destroys people's lives and the substratum of every decent economy. We therefore must insist upon nuclear non-proliferation. Likewise, we must insist on complete nuclear disarmament and a strengthened IAEA verification and safeguards system. No effort should be spared to discourage not only the production of nuclear weapons but also any trade or exchange in such materials.

Similarly, it is distressing to learn that estimated global military expenditure for 2004 exceeded $1 trillion and is projected to keep rising, yet little serious attention is paid to the high death toll caused by the illicit brokering, traffic and sale of small arms and light weapons. That more money and intelligence is used for death than for life is a scandal that should be of the highest concern to all nations.

2. The Role of the United Nations

Of course, a secure world will not just be free of the menace of war: it will be one where sustainable human development is also assured, through sound global governance. But, while global governance has a logic of its own, it lacks its own ethics, something which the world's nations must supply. We live in an interdependent but fragile society and, in many places, peoples' best interests are not served well. I should like to mention here but three specific areas of ethical challenge in this regard: solidarity with the poor; the promotion of the common good; and a sustainable environment.

Small gains made in this last area remain under risk from, among other things, climate change, new diseases, the irresponsible destruction of forests, water pollution, depletion of fishing stocks, the destruction of global commons like the oceans, and so on. It is estimated that 15 out of 24 essential services provided by ecosystems are being used unsustainably. The enormity of today's environmental challenge obliges us to rethink our notions of interdependence, global cooperation and our common responsibility for the stewardship of the planet. Differences on how to address challenges should not stop agreement on the identification of specific environmental threats and common measures to tackle them.

Another core principle needs to be set out in the shape of the proper devolution of power to local levels to ensure greater effectiveness and accountability, known also as subsidiarity. The application of this principle would foster a genuine respect for the rights of nations and for the significance of culture, balancing particularism and universalism. Global governance also has to address the democratic deficit in order to assure globalization without marginalization. Poverty reduction, with the poor's participation in ...

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