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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Holy See at the United Nations: civilians are the first victims of conventional weapons

Vatican City, 18 November 2014 (VIS) – Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Holy See Permanent Observer at the United Nations in Geneva spoke at the annual meeting of Parties to 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), held on 13 November.

Speaking in English, the prelate presented three issues to be considered. First, he spoke on the work carried out on lethal autonomous weapons systems. He emphasised that, with regard to the automation and consequent risk of the dehumanisation of war, a global – “scientific, legal, cultural, economic, ethical, and humanitarian” – rather than solely military approach is indispensable. He added, “I would like to reaffirm our wish that the mandate regarding this topic be renewed taking into account the importance of preserving an official trace of the statements, documents, debates and discussions”.

Secondly, he considered the theme of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. “With growing urbanisation of the world population, the tendency of urban wars will increase. How to protect the civilian populations? What should we do to safeguard civil infrastructures, indispensable for the livelihood of large communities? … What is certain, from the observations and data presently available, is that civilian populations are the first victims of conflicts. In many cases, they have no protection: millions of refugees and displaced people, a majority of them civilian victims, a great number are women and children; there is total or partial destruction of numerous urban centres; total disorganisation of social, academic, economic and political life; the exacerbation of hatred and of feelings of revenge that makes the re-establishment of peace and national reconstruction more difficult, if not impossible. It seems to me that an essential question touches all States parties: Does the CCW have something to say and do in such a situation? For the credibility and the integrity of the Convention and for the respect of the numerous victims, I would like to suggest adding this question to the agenda of the CCW”.

Finally, he mentioned the use of armed drones. “We are witnessing a certain proliferation of this technology and a growing use of it in various conflicts. … The choice of indifference in relation to this question is counter-productive. The fact of not addressing problems at the right moment can have disastrous consequences and make them almost insoluble, as experience in other domains teaches us”. He concluded by emphasising that “there is still time for the CCW to become interested in drones before they become an additional source of greater destabilisation when the international community needs, more than ever, stability, cooperation and peace”.

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