The Holy See
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Monday, 28 June 2004


Mr President-Designate,

On the occasion of the Second Preparatory Meeting for the Nairobi Summit, I would like to express to you Pope John Paul II's personal support for and appreciation of your deep commitment and continuous efforts to ensure the success of the First Conference. The Pope will take the opportunity to address a special Message to it. I shall limit myself for the time being to recalling certain points that the Holy See considers essential to the success of the Nairobi Summit.

Rather than being "the weapon of the poor", mines have impoverished the poor, left their victims without hands or feet, children without a future, farmers with no land to cultivate and the young generations with no future in the lands of their forefathers, and whose only alternative is to uproot themselves and migrate towards an uncertain future. The so-called weapon of the poor has made the poor countries even poorer.

A glance at the geography of the worst affected countries suffices to make one aware of this additional injustice that further deepens the divisions that must be overcome in the process of building peace.

This preposterous weapon makes those it claims to defend its first victims in both wartime and peace. Its consequences are to be dreaded for years to come, and it leaves open wounds with no real or lasting reconciliation in sight.

Despite the progress made since the Convention came into force, thousands of victims continue every year to join the millions of innocent people whose only fault was to have been in the wrong place one day. These victims have the right to recognition and a voice, so that they may participate with the rest of society in the decision-making that concerns them. They must not be silent victims. They are fully entitled members of society.

The Ottawa Convention is an effective pioneer Convention. Its originality can be an example to follow in difficult moments at the beginning of this millennium. Problems are more likely to be solved by cooperation between countries and regions in their diversity and specificity. Collaboration between Governments and the different members of civil society has given this innovative model the secret of success in the fight against anti-personnel landmines.

Each institution, each individual can make a contribution, however modest it may be, to making this possible dream come true:  the dream of a mine-free world, a world whose roads serve to connect people and not to trap them and estrange them from one another; a world whose fields exist to produce dignified and fulfilled living conditions and are not a source of death and withdrawal into self.

Mr President, you know, better than anyone, what still has to be done. Despite the important achievements in the areas of stock-destruction and mine clearance, vast challenges remain. No country can face them on its own.

Cooperation must be the basis for all action that looks to the future with confidence and optimism; cooperation at all levels:  between the countries affected and the countries not affected, between the rich countries and the developing countries, between those that possess technology and adequate means and those that do not, between governments and civil society.... This cooperation has another name: the unity of the human family and solidarity among all its members.

It remains to encourage and convince those whom the efforts of a large number of countries are still far from reaching. The norms established by the Convention must be universal in practice, since it expresses an unambiguous human concern.

How often, Mr President, has humanity regretted the victims and misfortunes caused by a belated assessment of humanitarian evidence? How many times has one regretted a tardy peace because one believed that the interests of some could be assured without the interests of the others? How often have we regretted the indiscriminate choice of certain weapons that proved to be additional sources of unjustified anxiety and extra suffering, instead of a source of security and protection?

From this viewpoint, Mr President, the Ottawa Convention is a significant step in the right direction, the direction of true peace founded on justice, reconciliation, freedom and sincere cooperation between all the countries.

Thank you, Mr President.

*L’Osservatore Romano, 4.7.2004 p.2.

L'Osservatore Romano. Edition hebdomadaire en langue franšaise n.28 p.6.