The Holy See
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Wednesday, 3 December 2008


Mr Prime Minister,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Peace and security are central and legitimate concerns that continuously expect an adequate response that surpasses the mere military dimension. Whatever our differences may be concerning the geo-political model that we are defending unipolar, bipolar or multipolar we must all be able to agree on the centrality of human dignity and the indispensable respect for the person's rights and duties. Peace and security can be stable and enduring only if they are based on justice, solidarity and brotherhood within States and between States.

In an international situation marked by the serious financial and economic crisis which renders the poorest people particularly fragile, in a return to models of security which many consider from another epoch in which military budgets and expenses are unfortunately increasing at an alarming rate, and in the face of global challenges such as migratory flows and global warming, it is imperative to return to basics and to restore the human person's place to the centre of our analyses and, inevitably, to the front line in the collective responses to these crises and challenges of our time.

Mr Prime Minister,

Ten years after the great success of the adoption of the Ottawa Convention, the Convention on Cluster Munitions is another proof of our ability to draft and to adopt ambitious instruments that combine disarmament and humanitarian law in a manner that is creative and capable of proposing a credible alternative based on the centrality of the human person. This convention is the expression of a common political will to respond concretely to particular problems by reinforcing international humanitarian law which is, in a certain way, an expression of our conviction that the respect and dignity of every human being, especially those who are the weakest, is the royal road to peace and security.

Responses of this nature can only be collective. The Oslo Process was able to combine the efforts of all the actors, governments, the United Nations, international organizations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and civil society, in all their diversity. Once again, we have a demonstration that success is possible. The ingredients can be identified: a small group of countries with strong convictions that puts the common good before their individual, legitimate interests; an inclusive approach of all the potential actors; clear goals and a reasonable timeframe and above all, a profound conviction that the starting point and the goal of any initiative that regards peace and security is the human person. Technological matters or the mere consideration of relations of force run the risk of unending negotiations or the lack of consensus.

If we are here today, it is because we have all been able to avoid the simple solutions, keeping the principal goal before us throughout the consultations and negotiations: to eliminate the risk of new victims falling prey to weapons of cluster munition and to create the necessary structures for the social and financial rehabilitation of all those who are the direct or indirect victims of these insidious weapons.

In the context of this signing ceremony, I permit myself to point out several particular points in the Convention and to indicate the Holy See's interpretation of them.

1. The general approach of the Convention is satisfying, since it starts with the effects of cluster munitions on persons. All the provisions of the Convention seek to prevent new victims or indeed to remedy or make reparation as much and as well as possible for the deplorable consequences of these weapons. We believe that the respect for and correct interpretation of Article 5 are fundamental for the implementation of the whole Convention. This requires collective responsibility but the role of the State is primordial. It is the duty of the State to establish the legislative and political framework in which all the public or private actors may carry out their role properly. In a democratic and pluralist society, the role of the various pertinent actors must be respected and guaranteed. The principal actors must be the victims themselves. Assistance to the victims is a question of dignity, right, justice and fraternity. In this context, I would like to stress the importance and relevance of the definition of "victim", which includes the family and the community.

2. This Convention, particularly in its Article 5 on "Victim assistance", is moving in the right direction by strengthening the link between international humanitarian law and human rights. The protection and rights that it offers are more appropriate and more ambitious than those already stated in the instruments already in place.

3. This Convention also constitutes progress in its Article 4.4. For the first time an international instrument has taken the step of determining the moral responsibility of parties who make use of a specific weapon. Several countries, especially those heavily affected, regret that the negotiators were unable to go further and institute legal responsibility. We hope that the user countries will take this moral responsibility seriously, and that, especially if they have the means, they will go to the aid of the affected countries.

4. The Holy See would like to raise another point it considers important to place correctly in the framework of this Convention. The question of the participation of future States, Parties to the Convention, in joint military operations with States that are not party to this Convention is of great importance. Article 21 precisely addresses this matter at the request of several of our partners who are in need of this provision, such that it in no way be interpreted as a suspension of the effects of the Convention while joint military operations are being conducted. On the contrary, we are confident that the Party States will do everything in their power to ensure that the provisions of the Convention are respected by partners who are not Party to the Convention, even if they cannot be held legally responsible if, in the end, their efforts are not successful.

In order to send a strong political signal, the Holy See has desired to ratify this convention on the same day that it is signed. First of all, we wish to express to the victims the human closeness that the Holy See and its institutions are keen to emphasize. We would also like to launch an appeal to all countries, especially producers, exporters and potential users, to join today's signatories to tell all the victims and all the countries heavily hit by these weapons that their message has been heard. Credible security is not only possible but is particularly more effective when it is based on cooperation, the construction of trust and a just international order. An order founded on the balance of force is fragile, unstable and a source of conflicts.

Mr Prime Minister,

Our success today is one of the foundations of our decisions tomorrow. With the contribution of all, the structure of peace is firmer but perseverance and patience are the necessary conditions for its ongoing consolidation.

Before concluding, I would like to say to our partners in the Core Group, especially to the Government of the Kingdom of Norway, that it was an honour and a pleasure to cooperate with them to succeed in this ennobling enterprise. Likewise, I desire to express the appreciation of the Holy See to all the governments that have participated in this process, to the Cluster Munitions coalition and to civil society that have played an important role, to the agencies of the United Nations and to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Holy See remains determined to work with all the parties concerned to ensure that the implementation of this Convention is as successful as its adoption was. The victims and the affected countries deserve no less.
I thank you for your attention.