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UN agency and INEW call on humanitarian leaders to act on explosive weapons

In 2014, a group of humanitarian leaders and agencies called on parties to talks on Syria in Geneva to prioritise the protection of children trapped in Syria and living through the conflict. At that time, 11,000 children had been killed in the conflict, 71% from explosive weapons used in populated areas. In an open letter, the humanitarian leaders asked all parties in Syria to ensure that aid reaches children in Syria, protect schools and health facilities, and prevent the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

UNHCR staff in Saada, Yemen, on a road of shops hit by airstrikes, 2015 (https://flic.kr/p/BwWwjw)

UNHCR staff in Saada, Yemen, on a road of shops hit by airstrikes, 2015 (https://flic.kr/p/BwWwjw)

Two years later, death, injury, psychological trauma, displacement and the destruction of schools, hospitals and other vital infrastructure are the predictable consequences of the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas in conflicts across the world, from Syria to Ukraine, Iraq, Yemen and many other countries.

In this context, INEW, in partnership with the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), wrote to the individuals and agencies who signed the 2014 to call on them to contribute to current international work to secure a political commitment to prevent harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Noting that the UN Secretary-General has recommended that states refrain from the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas in his 2015 report on the protection of civilians, and in his report in advance of the World Humanitarian Summit, our letter highlights the meeting hosted by Austria and OCHA in autumn 2015, at which a number of states expressed their support for the development of a political declaration. Such a commitment would aim to stigmatise the use of wide-area effect explosive weapons in populated areas, and encourage a change of practice towards strengthened civilian protection. It represents one concrete step that states can take to respond by the harm caused by bombing and bombardment in towns and cities.

Our letter calls on the humanitarian leaders to:

- Reaffirm their call, in line with the UN Secretary-General’s recommendation and the recent call of the Secretary-General and the ICRC, for conflict parties to refrain from the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas;

- Encourage all states to join the growing group of countries speaking up on this issue, and play a proactive role towards the development of a political commitment, as recommended by the UN Secretary-General;

- Continue to highlight the devastating humanitarian and development impacts of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, in their work and official statements.

We wrote to the following individuals and agencies (the individual letters can be downloaded below):

Valerie Amos, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs
Louise Arbour
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International
Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization
Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director, World Food Programme
Jan Egeland, Secretary General, Norwegian Refugee Council
Kristalina Georgieva, former European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
Antonio Guterres, former UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Kevin Jenkins, President and Chief Executive Officer, World Vision International
Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund
Mark Malloch-Brown, former United Nations Deputy Secretary General and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme
David Miliband, President and Chief Executive Officer, International Rescue Committee
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative for the United Nations Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict

 

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