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First Committee 2019 update – week 2

In the second week of general debate, Angola, Austria, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, San Marino, Switzerland all raised concern over the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, alongside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW).

In the second week of general debate, Angola, Austria, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, San Marino, Switzerland all raised concern over the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, alongside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW).

Following the Vienna Conference on the Protection of Civilians in Urban Warfare, which took place earlier in the month and was attended by 133 states, several delegations highlighted urbanisation of conflict as a top issue of humanitarian concern. This, the ICRC said, is characterised by the bombing and shelling of cities, placing civilians at high risk of harm, including at risk of death, injury, disability, mental harm, and the destruction of homes and infrastructure, as well as numerous indirect effects and forced displacement.

The ICRC urged states to urgently take prompt action in a number of areas including targeting, training, data collection,and civilian casualty mitigation—and to put in place and implement policies and practices that will enhance the protection of civilians and facilitate compliance with IHL in urban warfare, including policies and practices to avoid the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area.

Several delegations expressed their support for starting work on developing an international political declaration to prevent and reduce harm from the use of explosive weapons on populated areas, with the view to concluding it next year, including Austria, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, and San Marino.

INEW laid out possible elements of an international political declaration to address harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including that such a declaration should commit states to:

1. Develop operational policies and procedures that will stop the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas
2. Share positive practice and experiences
3. Provide assistance to victims and affected communities
4. Support and undertake data gathering disaggregated by age, sex and disability
5. Enable effective humanitarian and protection measures, and
6. Build a community of practice, including through regular meetings to discuss the issue and progress towards reducing harm.

In doing this, it will strengthen the normative framework—and will make it clear, at a time when armed conflict is increasingly waged in urban settings, that we need to ensure greater protection of civilians in towns and cities from the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons.

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