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news - Papal Address to Congress: The Role of Money in Conflict

september 25th, 2015

In his September 24 speech to a joint session of Congress, Pope Francis discussed the arms trade and illicit funding operations that drive conflict. Neither NOOW or its partner The Enough Project are affiliated with any religion or sect, but given their joint work with The Sentry, both organizations took note of the Pope's landmark speech in D.C. He questioned the mechanisms of and reasoning for weapons trade with violent regimes and armed groups, utilizing this platform to condemn such practices.

"Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.” -Pope Francis

The Pope seemed mainly to be referring to the international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which the UN passed in late 2014. Secretary of State John Kerry signed on behalf of the United States, but the treaty has not come into effect in the U.S., as it has still not been ratified by the Senate.

Relatedly, NOOW and Enough recently launched the Sentry, an initiative that focuses on tracking illicit funding mechanisms and kleptocratic regimes that fuel Africa's deadliest conflicts. The Sentry reframes conflict environments in Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo as hijacked states rather than failed states. Political, military, and business elites in these states often drive conflict through the guise of state institutions in pursuit of personal financial gain. Through investigative research and reporting, the Sentry aims to subvert these networks that both propel and profit from violence.

South Sudan, in particular, provides a devastating example of a kleptocratic state manipulated through the opacity of the oil sector, military economic control, corrupt state spending, and money laundering by political elites. A plethora of organizations including the Enough Project have therefore advocated that the United Nations Security Council impose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo to quell the cycle of violence.

Pope Francis also made a call for the people and community of nations to work together on the complex problems that confront the world. He urged a coordinated international effort to address humanitarian needs in such conflict areas.

“Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions… The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these [geopolitical and economic] challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.” -Pope Francis

In bringing these significant issues and drivers of international conflict to the forefront in his address, Pope Francis highlighted a critical mutual sentiment:

“I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost.” -Pope Francis

Read the Pope’s full speech to Congress.

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