Archbishop Celestino Migliore expressed this concern during the 59th Session of the U.N. General Assembly, when he addressed the first Committee on "General and Complete Disarmament."
The Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations said that a sign of the fear of terrorist attacks, new wars, and "a breakdown in the processes of international law" is the "surge in global military spending," which last year reached $956 billion, up 11% from 2002.
"Military spending, which will exceed $1 trillion this year, will soon surpass even the Cold War peaks," but increased "reliance on guns -- large and small -- is leading the world away from, not towards, security," warned the archbishop. The text of his speech was distributed Friday by the Vatican press office.
"A clear result of such overspending on the instruments of death is that governments are much less able to meet long-term commitments to education, health care and housing," he said. "The Millennium goals are left lagging while military priorities claim scarce funds."
"The United Nations pioneered studies which show the integral relationship between disarmament, development and security. Security for all is enhanced when disarmament and development steps complement one another," he added.
"We must point out the economic benefits of disarmament measures. Development alternatives to militarism must be the constant work of this committee," Archbishop Migliore contended.
It "certainly cannot be said that poverty leads directly to terrorism, but it is true that the terrorists exploit conditions of poverty in ways that produce heightened conflict and violence," he continued.
Moreover, the array of weapons used by terrorists and their global reach "means that these weapons are being produced and sold internationally, on black markets as well as by state-sponsors," he said.
"States must look for ways to reduce the easy availability of these weapons through increased export controls and added vigilance over weapons stockpiles," the Holy See permanent observer urged.
There is also increasing awareness "of the grave threat posed by terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons," he continued. "The fragile state of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at this moment is very worrying, as proliferation of these weapons greatly increases the likelihood of terrorist acquisition."
The "NPT is in crisis," he said, and the crisis "is far deeper than procedural disagreements. It has to do with the interplay of responsibilities between the nuclear weapons states and the non-nuclear weapons states.
"The non-nuclear members of the NPT have a duty not to engage in the proliferation of nuclear weapons, while the nuclear weapon states have a duty to engage in negotiations leading to the elimination of their nuclear weapons. This was the original bargain of the NPT: no proliferation in exchange for nuclear disarmament."
However, since "the treaty was signed in 1968, there has been an ongoing struggle between the nuclear haves and the have-nots," Archbishop Migliore observed.
"The best intentions of this bargain have not resulted in the desired outcome of a world free of nuclear weapons. On the contrary, attempts are being made to modernize nuclear weapons and to give them a war-fighting capacity," leading to a situation that is "increasingly unsustainable and unacceptable," he stressed.
"Progress will be made only when strategic choices towards nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and a reconsideration of nuclear policies are undertaken by all parties," the prelate said.
Archbishop Migliore added that it "is to be hoped that the gravity of the present crisis will lead states to act to ensure that the NPT emerges from the review conference next year in a stronger condition than at present."
The archbishop also referred to the "extremely concerning" problem of the spread of "conventional weapons, especially in conflict and post-conflict situations in Africa."
"The U.N. and its member states must support all disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts in Africa and everywhere there is the need of such activities," he said.
The archbishop concluded by expressing the hope that the first Review Conference of the Antipersonnel Landmine Convention, which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, in two months time, will serve to "renew our efforts to promote the universalization and the implementation of the convention in order to realize, in the not-too-distant future, the dream of a world free of antipersonnel mines."