by Roberto Montoya 21 July 2020

What does man need today? The unexpected Covid-19 pandemic has spared no borders, it has endangered entire economies, photographing a devastating picture, with repercussions that go beyond our expectations. To be disproportionately affected the sick, the poor, the marginalized and the victims of conflicts, causing a humanitarian crisis never seen after the Second World War.

This is the question posed by  Pope Francis  together with his Vatican commission on covid-19, recently established to tackle in a concrete way the gap not only between rich and poor, but also between areas of peace and prosperity and environmental justice , areas of conflict, deprivation and ecological devastation.

It is a project with a broad gaze that expresses the concern and love of the Church for the entire human family affected by the pandemic, fielding the best intelligence in the areas of ecology, economics, health and social security. An opportunity for dialogue and discussion that calls on states and international bodies to collaborate by investing mainly in the common good, facing a future that is expected to be full of shocks.

These are times that impose an epochal change of views on humanity; Francis asks for the intercession of Mary, the mother of all mediations, who touches the consciences of the rulers "... so that the large sums of money, used to increase and perfect armaments, are instead intended to promote adequate studies to prevent future catastrophes similar. We are in a phase - adds the pontiff - in which we must know how to choose where to invest our resources ".

During the pandemic we discovered that one of the priorities is health care, and certainly not the race for military armaments. In 2019 military spending reached record numbers (1.9 trillion US dollars) generating a vicious circle. The question asked by the bishop of Rome is whether it makes sense to continue to make huge investments in this area, if then it is not possible to save human lives due to the lack of investments that guarantee adequate health systems.

The pandemic also revealed the true extent of our interconnection. Today the world needs courageous leaders who are able to believe and bet on the planet we live in, the common home. We need global leaders capable of rebuilding bonds of unity, who are also engaged in other areas, such as the defense of life. Today more than ever, analysts are recommending the creation of a collective pact for the safety of health, considered as a common good, in the sense that everyone has a right to it, but which calls for equal responsibility in promoting it.

According to the WHO, the worst medical impact of the pandemic has yet to come; the IMF has already forecast a global drop in GDP of at least 3%, with direct consequences on security at all levels, from internal to global. Crime, "cyberwar", and social tensions also played a leading role during this health emergency, not promoting peace and prosperity even in areas of the planet already vulnerable to integrated IT systems. Medical supplies, food security, economic recovery are the only way to reduce conflicts, injustices and inequalities.

The Department for Integral Human Development Service, together with the Holy Father, underlined the recent approval by the UN Security Council of a global ceasefire, as well as the approval by 170 countries of the United Nations call to silence weapons. "Solidarity, in times of crisis, is the new name for peace"
There is an urgent need to globalize solidarity, as Pope Francis recalled, because we all need everyone, and nobody can do it alone. “A common and global evil - he says - is faced only if we understand that we are all linked, in a humanity with a common destiny. It only comes out of it with everyone's commitment. ”

We met  Alessio Pecorario , Coordinator of the Security Task Force of the Vatican Commission for Covid-19.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), there is a continuous increase in military spending. How difficult is it for humanity to build peace after Covid-19?
The pandemic crisis spills over into security at all levels: from domestic to global. In the prism of the security dimension I deal with, I would say that the global ceasefire is very important. The data is alarming. Military spending today far exceeds the global annual expenditure incurred during the Cold War, and by about 300 times the WHO budget. In addition, observers and officials urge increased military spending in response to the pandemic. 

So you are telling me that it is possible to live in a world without weapons?
I say that in our opinion the freezing or moratorium on the production and sale of weapons is necessary. The pontiff recalls that it is not the time to make weapons. But if we still persist in remaining in the security dilemma, that is, I arm myself, make strategic alliances, I use aggressive military rhetoric, this will only stimulate a similar attitude in competitors, and at the end of the day we are all more insecure, because we have exponentially increased our defense mechanisms, which in reality do not generate real security.

One of Pope Francis' proposals is to divest in armaments and invest in the common good, in health. How much is your message heard by institutions around the world?
ICANW, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a partner with whom the dicastery has always worked well, has calculated that in 2019 alone, the nine countries recognized as owners of nuclear weapons spent approximately $ 73 billion on rearmament , registering a 7% increase compared to 2018. There is a false dichotomy in the safety of the herds, so if you stop the arms trade, work and employment will suffer. But this is an occupational blackmail: indeed, human work in that sector will be increasingly reduced. This shows that, for example, in the same year 2019,
 we could have built 365 thousand high profile hospitals or we could have fed 196 thousand people who are suffering from food. It has already been shown that converting military spending into civilian is very convenient today, because today's military technology is dual-use, and therefore simply reorienting destinations, even with the same production chains, is potentially already prepared to serve the common good. . As a commission we think that agriculture, health, civil industry, human work, today more than ever, are far more desirable and precious.

… Currently how much is our security at risk?
The use of armaments, militarist rhetoric, new military postures, which seem to bring down the threshold of relaxation between conventional and non-conventional conflicts, the possibility of calculation errors, accidents, terrorist attacks and the erosion of international legal architecture in the field of arms control and disarmament, all this, significantly increases the tensions and deterioration of the international protection regime. Cybersecurity is an extremely new and important dimension, which has many connections with nuclear weapons. Today we are all in Smart Working, and therefore this has created, according to some international bodies, a 500% increase in cyber attacks, including on critical infrastructures or banking data, and so on. Attacks on some of our critical infrastructure, banking data, are on the agenda. This gives us a dimension of the dangers we are running.

Fear of the virus is a good opportunity in Europe to wave the flags of nationalisms. How is the Commission tackling this global problem?
The Church has always exhorted love for her own people, for her homeland, respect for the treasure of the various cultural expressions rooted in peoples. At the same time the Church warns even more today, faced with such complex challenges, governments and peoples about the deviations of this attachment to culture. Unfortunately when everything turns into exclusion, the risk is conflictual nationalism, which raises the walls. Pope Francis observes with concern the re-emergence, almost everywhere in the world, of aggressive currents towards foreigners, especially immigrants, as well as that growing nationalism that neglects the common good. Clearly in this way there is the risk of compromising consolidated forms of international cooperation, and as regards the security dimension, it is at the expense of the multilateralism proposed by the Holy See, of that truly frank and effective dialogue with all peoples. So we need to talk about non-violence, fraternal peace, the advancement of human rights ...

We are witnessing a change of global paradigm: from attention to national security to human and global security, from simple conflict prevention to peace-building.
Are we ready to face this challenge? 

With the pandemic, we saw the realization of the prophetic intuition of Pope St. Paul VI who, conceiving development as the new name for peace, in fact anticipated a change in the essential paradigm of contemporaneity, that of the need for the transition from national security to global security and even personal. If your neighbor is poor or ill, this makes you unsafe by generating social conflict. According to Pope Francis, security is a concept that needs to be redefined. Since the Second World War, the proposal that political science defines as "humanitarian disarmament" has developed, potentially putting every human being at the center of peace processes; under the leadership of Cardinal Turkson, our Dicastery has deepened this path by talking about "integral disarmament", which means remedying individual suffering, environmental devastation and all those aspects of security that concern humanity and creation. I too, if I am aware of the risks I run, and therefore I have a word to say about the world, I can do it in the multilateral system I mentioned earlier. The Church anticipated this debate when Paul VI spoke of development as the new name for peace. So traditional security, as states conceived it, military security, clearly, in light of the pandemic, remains precarious.

FAO reports that the pandemic as early as 2020 could lead to a rise in the number of people affected by chronic hunger to 130 million worldwide. How are you acting on this front?
 The numbers you mentioned are frightening and generate instability. The commission to which I belong speaks of the "conflict trap": the pandemic has generated a huge health problem, which in turn has generated an economic lockdown, thus worsening humanitarian aid effectively; and the economic collapse has aggravated the food security situation, ultimately generating new conflicts. It is a chain crisis, profoundly different, which first affects all sectors, increasing globalization in its pace of development. It is necessary, as Pope Francis said, to create a globalization of solidarity, defending life, putting aside the technocratic paradigm of just producing, even in the food case. One of the major causes of global pollution is precisely the waste of resources. So what we are actually doing is freezing the sale of armaments, which generates an interconnection in the various areas of security.