The Holy See
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Mr President,

The Holy See expresses its appreciation to the Government of Laos for organizing the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), for its commitment, as the country most affected by the problem of cluster bombs, and for its warm welcome to this Delegation. It is a strong message of encouragement and hope and an appeal for urgent action for all the countries affected and for all the victims. The Holy See, together with the other members of the Group for support to Laos, wished to express its closeness to the people and to the government of this country, and in a special way, to all the victims of cluster munitions.

In the same vein, the Holy See accepts favourably Lebanon's generous offer to organize the next meeting of the States Parties. It shows that this Convention is seen by the affected countries as an important model for a multilateral action that responds best to a specific problem, that of cluster munitions. Furthermore, a meeting of this kind in Lebanon must be supported in order to encourage the countries of the region to work more resolutely for humanitarian disarmament.

The CCM was ratified by 43 States and signed by 108. This demonstrates the correctness of the global approach adopted in order to respond to problems posed by a specific category of arms. All the protagonists and partners should make sustained efforts to universalize the Convention. It is the best way to remedy the existing problems in this domain. It is above all the best way to assure a policy of prevention. The Convention, in its global approach, has the merit of permitting both these things to be done: to remedy and to prevent.

The Oslo Process concluded successfully in adopting the CCM because it was able to place the human person at the centre of its concerns, and, in the first place, those who most deserve our attention, namely the victims.

If, on the contrary the States do not succeed, in other areas, in finding satisfactory solutions to the same types of problem, it is precisely because they are more concerned with weapons, technology and, more generally, the military dimension rather than with a person who is already a victim or a potential victim of these munitions, which by their nature pose a humanitarian problem during and after the conflict.

The States Parties to the CCM are responsible for continuing to make the victims the focus of their efforts to implement the Convention. Hence the sentiment of urgency which should inhabit the States Parties as a whole, the non-governmental organizations and the international organizations. There is no time to waste because precisely every person counts and every victim counts. The responsibility is shared. The spirit of this Convention lies in the idea of partnership and cooperation. This can mean different things for different people, but we are all parties concerned in confronting the same challenge. The failure of one is the failure of all. The success is one is the success of all.

In this context, the Meeting in Vientiane is fundamental. It means laying the foundations for expressing the exalting vision of the Convention in a concrete policy made up of plans, programmes and practical cooperation so that the obligations contracted by all may become reality, in the first place, for the affected countries and for the victims. Hence the importance of this meeting and of the first meetings that will follow. The Declaration of Vientiane transmits a strong political message to renew commitment to the objectives of the Convention. The Plan of Action responds precisely to this need to express the vision in a practical policy which changes the lives of the countries and people affected by the scourge of cluster munitions.

However, the feeling of urgency must not lead to rash action. Following this meeting the States Parties are called to take a certain number of indispensable decisions for the dynamic and determined progress of this Convention. With an approach of cooperation and partnership, these decisions should be made without delay. However, regarding other questions that are not yet mature or need to be clarified by experience, the States Parties are called to work in an open and sincere dialogue, which will lead in the course of the upcoming meetings to fruitful results for the future life of the Convention.

At the time of the signing of the CCM in Oslo, the Holy See made a series of interpretative observations concerning the Convention. On the occasion of the First Meeting of the States Parties, it would like to complete its interpretation of two points in particular:

— a careful reading of the Convention brings us to support the prohibition against a State Party stockpiling or helping to transport cluster bombs within its national territory, taking into account paragraphs 6, 7 and 8 of Article 3 of the Convention.

— In a world ever more globalized and interdependent, some countries produce or possess production methods or invest in the military industry, outside their national borders. It is important for the integrity of the Convention and for its application to include these investments in the list of prohibitions.

Mr President,

To conclude, the Holy See reiterates its determination to work with all the partners, States Parties, international organizations, CICR and CMC, in the spirit of cooperation, because all those involved have the same goal which is to reinforce international humanitarian law and to help the affected countries and the victims of cluster munitions to find, as quickly as possible, the way to rehabilitation and integration.

My Delegation reiterates the invitation of the Holy Father “to all the States to adhere to the Convention”, above all when one thinks “of the numerous victims who have suffered and continue to suffer serious physical and moral damage”.

In fact, the application of the Convention represents a legal and humanitarian challenge for the coming years. The Delegation of the Holy See therefore hopes, as Pope Benedict XVI had underlined, expressing the hope “that we may continue with ever greater vigour on this path, for the defence of dignity and human life, for the promotion of integral human development, for the establishment of a peaceful international order and for the realization of the common good of all people and all peoples” (After the Angelus, 1 August 2010).