Pope Francis: Vatican Wants The World Free Of Nuclear Weapons

DSC_8077Representatives from around 150 countries including the United States and United Kingdom are attending the third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons which started today morning at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna and hosted by the government of Austria. Both the US and the UK took part for the first time in the international conference.

Sebastian Kurz, Austrian Foreign Minister; Angela Kane, the UN high representative for disarmament, Peter Maurer, President of the ICRC; Hiroshima Survivor, Setsuko Thurlow; and Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s permanent representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva delivered speeches at the opening session of the conference.

The Vienna Conference will build on an initiative launched in 2013 that draws to focus attention on the humanitarian consequences of and risks associated with nuclear weapons. There have been two international conferences on the dangers, in Oslo, Norway, in March 2013, and Nayarit, Mexico in February 2014. Since the launch of the initiative the number of states participating in the initiative has grown to 127 in Oslo to 146 in Nayarit.

Their exact number is secret but consensus is that the legacy from the Cold War and other states’ nuclear weapons amounts to more than 16,000, of which 1,800 are on high alert. As long as they remain in their arsenals the risk of their use prevails.

DSC_7971“As long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of their use – deliberately or inadvertently – remains real. Such a scenario, more than any other human action, has the potential of ending life on this planet as we know it. There could not and would not be a winner in such a scenario. We have the collective responsibility for ourselves and future generations to do our utmost that they will never be used again” said Minister Kurz.

U.N. disarmament Chief Angela Kane, reading the statement from Ban Ki-Moon said, “Possession does not prevent international disputes from occurring, but it makes conflicts more dangerous. Maintaining forces on alert does not provide safety, but it increases the likelihood of accidents. Upholding doctrines of nuclear deterrence does not counter proliferation, but it makes the weapons more desirable. Growing ranks of nuclear armed-States does not ensure global stability, but instead under mines it.”

She told reporters that the countries without nuclear bombs were “becoming increasingly exasperated” that disarmament negotiations were not happening. It seems the weapon states “don’t really see that the NPT is an obligation to disarm” she said.

Archbishop Tomasi, read the pope’s statement. In his message, Pope Francis restated the Vatican’s long-standing advocacy for the global elimination of nuclear weapons and said peace is not just a balance of power, “but true justice.”

“The humanitarian consequences are predictable and planetary,” the pope said in the statement, read before representatives of more than 150 countries gathered for conference.”

DSC_7918More attention should be given to the unnecessary suffering that would result from the use of nuclear weapons, the pope’s statement said. He encouraged open dialogue between nuclear and non-nuclear states, with the inclusion of religious communities and civil society.

The Vienna Conference will focus on the short and long term consequences of nuclear weapons explosions, on public health, the environment, climate disruption, food security, migration, development related issues, infrastructure, and other consequences.

It will also address various risks that could result in deliberate or accidental nuclear weapons explosions such as human error, negligence, miscalculation, technical errors and vulnerabilities of nuclear weapons and their infrastructure. Moreover, the Conference will give an overview on existing international law and the possible consequences of nuclear weapon explosions.

Participants in the Vienna Conference will include representatives of government, international organisations, academia, civil society and other experts. The goal of the
Vienna Conference is to draw attention to the urgent need for nuclear disarmament to prevent irreparable harm.

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