Vatican calls for trust, responsibility on nuclear technology

Credit: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Credit: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

By Hannah Brockhaus

Vienna, Austria, Dec 6, 2016 / 12:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In order to realize the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons the discourse of the international community surrounding nuclear security must be based on an ethic of trust, responsibility, and cooperation – not fear and suspicion, Vatican official Msgr. Antoine Camilleri said Tuesday.

“The logic of fear and mistrust that is epitomized by nuclear deterrence must be replaced with a new global ethic,” Msgr. Camilleri said Dec. 6. “We need an ethic of responsibility, solidarity, and cooperative security adequate to the task of controlling the power of nuclear technology.”

The Under-Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, Msgr. Camilleri spoke at the International Conference on Nuclear Security: Commitments and Actions held in Vienna Dec. 5-9.

Put on by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the conference was comprised of two main parts: state officials delivering messages, commitments and actions, and policy discussions based on six broad themes central to nuclear security.

In his speech Msgr. Camilleri recognized the considerable progress that has already been made to nuclear security and safety internationally through measures such as the UN Security Council Resolution 1540, the Nuclear Security Summits, the Nuclear Terrorism Convention, and the work of the IAEA.

Despite these advancements, however, he stressed the importance of not becoming “complacent” about nuclear technology, emphasizing that discussion and agreement among countries must be encouraged.

“The promotion of nuclear security faces significant challenges,” he acknowledged, “including the limited, insufficient and often stalled efforts to prevent proliferation and move toward a world free of nuclear weapons.”

“Therefore,” he continued, “to respond adequately to the challenges of nuclear security, the Holy See believes it to be essential that the international community embrace an ethic of responsibility, in order to foster a climate of trust, and to strengthen cooperative security through multilateral dialogue.”

In no way downplaying the “serious technical and diplomatic challenges” represented by threats to nuclear security, Msgr. Camilleri conveyed the issue’s significant importance to the Holy See, explaining how the root causes that encourage nuclear weapons cannot be ignored.

The challenges must be “tackled by addressing the wider security, political, economic and cultural dynamics that lead state and non-state actors to seek security, legitimacy, and power in nuclear weapons,” he said.

“Therefore,” he said, “the critically important work of strengthening nuclear security” must happen in the context of “broader efforts to promote socio-economic development, political participation, respect for fundamental human rights and the rule of law.”

Among the many different areas requiring increased efforts, the Holy See delegation would emphasize two, he said – the physical protection of nuclear material, and the counteraction of insider threats, and the prevention of cyber-attacks.

“Ensuring that nuclear and other radioactive material is safely contained must remain central for the work of nuclear security,” he said, “as failure to control nuclear material could have catastrophic consequences.”

As well, “increasing attention has to be paid to the strengthening of information security and computer security as well as to ensuring the confidentiality of information which pertains to nuclear security.”

On both of these issues, he clarified, the responsibility for maintaining the effective security of all nuclear and radioactive material within a state “rests primarily with that state.”

Though “cooperation between states is essential” because many threats to nuclear security “do not respect borders and are facilitated by the political instability and crises that sadly plague numerous parts of our world.”

Msgr. Camilleri presented the greeting of Pope Francis to participants, quoting from the Pope’s Sept. 25, 2015 address to the UN General Assembly, which urged the international community “to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.”

Continuing the Pope’s words, he said the “security of our own future depends on guaranteeing the peaceful security of others, for if peace, security and stability are not established globally, they will not be enjoyed at all.”

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