The Holy See
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His Holiness Benedict XVI cordially greets the organizers and participants in this Conference, expressing an interest in and paying attention to its work, which does not only seek to respond to the serious humanitarian problems posed by anti-personnel landmines and to reinforce international humanitarian law, but also to promote the search for authentic and integral human development.

Ten years after an important result that opened the way to a world without anti-personnel mines, the States party to the Convention on these mines are meeting once again to evaluate the ground covered and to identify the challenges that have yet to be faced before it is possible to guarantee that the risks posed by these treacherous weapons no longer exist and that all their victims have received proper assistance. In this, as in other fields the political and humanitarian will, as well as concrete commitment, must be renewed every day. Noble causes deserve a continuous and persistent effort.

In politics, as in the economy or in the field of disarmament, it is indispensable once again to make the person the centre of our concern. Every time that the objectives are centred on other things, the price demanded for people and peoples has been exorbitant and they have paid with their lives, their development and the future of their families and communities. The Convention on Anti-Personnel Landmines was a pioneer in this field. The victims and their families were the focus of our attention and must continue to be so, not only to ensure that they receive assistance, but also considering them conversation partners and architects in the joint achievement of the Convention's objectives.

Attention, of course, was mainly focused on the Convention that is being held this week. However, a broader vision is indispensable in order not to exclude areas so close to each other that it would be futile to attempt to separate them. How can one discriminate between the victims of anti-personnel mines and the victims of cluster bombs or light, small-calibre weapons? How can one develop the activity of clearing land of only one of these weapons without taking the others into account? How is it possible to ban anti-personnel landmines and continue with impunity to contaminate large areas with inhuman weapons, such as cluster bombs, which function in more or less the same way as anti-personnel landmines? The defence of national interests neither can nor must ever be to the detriment of civilian populations, especially the weakest.

The Holy See shows its pleasure at the undeniable successes which it has been possible to achieve in common. It is necessary to praise and encourage the collaboration between States, the United Nations, international organizations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and civil society. This Convention is also a pioneer in what may be described as renewed multilateralism which with time has proven its validity, particularly and recently, within the framework of the Anti-Cluster Bomb Convention. The growing awareness of their own dignity and rights on the part of the people and peoples who have been the worst hit, as well as the desire to work together for them is also a guarantee of further success in various fields of disarmament.

The efforts made in this context to fulfil the obligations set out in the Convention, particularly with regard to assistance to the victims, the destruction of arsenals and the clearing of mines in the affected regions are praiseworthy. In an ever more globalized and interdependent world, peace and development are inseparable. We cannot receive the full benefit without one another, and even less should it be to the detriment of others. In this regard international cooperation and the inclusion of the least fortunate are indispensable, in order to increase opportunities for peace in the world and to create the necessary conditions for building prosperity and for the integral development of the human family. "International cooperation requires people who can be part of the process of economic and human development through the solidarity of their presence, supervision, training and respect" (Caritas in Veritate, n. 47). In this time of crisis, it is imperative not to forget our duty to be supportive, to share and to act justly with regard to the worst affected and least favoured countries.

Since its adoption, the Convention has obtained the approval of the majority of States in the world, although, unfortunately, adherence to it is not yet universal. The Holy See, on this occasion appeals to all the States to recognize the deplorable humanitarian consequences of anti-personnel mines. In fact, experience shows that the toll of victims and the damage caused by these weapons among the civilian population, which they should have defended, are greater than what was necessary to protect the States. The thousands of victims they continue to claim remind us, should it be necessary to repeat it, of the nightmare of seeking to build peace and stability with an exclusively military vision. It is timely to reassert on this occasion that peace, security and stability cannot exist solely in terms of military security but depend above all on the production of all those conditions that permit the full development of the human person, so frequently hampered by the use and presence of anti-personnel landmines.

On this occasion, the Holy Father expresses his closeness to all the victims, to their families and to the countries affected. They are all in need of determination and courage to begin a process of rehabilitation, and they also need our help and our human closeness. The Holy Father also expresses his satisfaction at the valuable work carried out by the Norwegian Presidency and by you personally, Madam President. He likewise reaffirms the support of the Holy See, without reservations, for all those who are involved in the great task of freeing our world from anti-personnel landmines and, at the same, time invokes upon all the participants of this Conference abundant divine Blessings.