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UN General Assembly First Committee side event: Strengthening the protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

This briefing gave an overview of humanitarian harm resulting from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. It suggested actions that can be taken to address such harm, including through changes in policy and operational practice by militaries, including actions at the political level towards the development of an international political declaration on explosive weapons. It also provided an update on ongoing work at the regional and international level.

UNGA1C side event flyer Oct 2018

A report on the event was included in Reaching Critical Will’s First Committee Monitor and is available below.

 

SIDE EVENT REPORT: STRENGTHENING THE PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS FROM EXPLOSIVE WEAPONS IN POPULATED AREAS

Anna de Courcy Wheeler | Article 36

On 18 October the Permanent Missions of Austria, Chile, Ireland, and Mozambique together with the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) organised a side event to discuss how to better protect civilians from the effects of explosive weapons. Chaired by Ambassador Hajnoczi (Austria), the discussion covered the harm resulting from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and actions that can be taken to address such harm, including the development of an international political declaration on explosive weapons.

OCHA opened the discussion by emphasising the ways in which the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) destroys essential services and causes and prolongs displacement. OCHA also cautioned that the approach taken by several states, which centres around compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL), cannot effectively address the issue. Kathleen Lawand from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) similarly emphasised the ways in which the increasingly urbanised and protracted nature of conflict is increasing the urgency of tackling EWIPA. She reiterated the ICRC’s call for an “avoidance principle”—whereby use of explosive weapons with wide area effects should be avoided in populated areas—to be adopted by states.

Speaking on behalf of INEW, Laura Boillot highlighted the potential for a political declaration on explosive weapons to set a political and operational direction to avoids the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas, to provide a forum for states to discuss and develop policies and practices, and to provide a framework for states to support victims and survivors. In the discussions that followed, Ireland’s representative flagged the UN Secretary-General’s call to develop a political declaration and noted the encouraging level of engagement by civil society.

Closing the panel presentations, Alma al-Osta described the harms that her organisation, Humanity and Inclusion, has observed in its work with conflict-affected communities, and the ongoing work it is doing to raise awareness among parliamentarians in European and other Western states. The representatives from Mozambique and Chile briefed on the past Maputo conference and resulting Communiqué, and the upcoming conference in Santiago for states from the Latin American and Caribbean region. Alma al-Osta, OCHA, and several commentators from the floor also emphasised the need to include a gender perspective—both in terms of the harm caused and solutions proposed—on this issue.

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