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Providing an effective response to the harm from explosive weapons

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Providing an effective response to the humanitarian harm resulting from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

October 2017

This paper presents various aspects of the harm and suffering that civilians experience resulting from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and considers how an international political declaration on explosive weapons could be a powerful tool to respond to this harm.

An effective political declaration would focus attention on responding to the specific humanitarian issues associated with the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, through including commitments that require action by endorsing states. These commitments should be designed to drive activities that prevent and reduce harm to civilians and afford greater protection to those living through armed conflict.

The commitments in a declaration should include the development of national-level policies and practice, in particular a commitment to stop the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas, as well as actions to assist affected individuals and communities in the immediate and longer-term.

Through describing the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and committing states to monitor harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas through data gathering, a declaration would also provide a framework for increased understanding of this humanitarian problem.

With broad endorsement by states, including those that have used explosive weapons in populated areas and those affected by armed conflict, a well-constructed declaration that responds directly to humanitarian realities would make an effective contribution to setting new international standards to respond to the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. It would assist in building a community of practice, and provide a forum to review progress made in reducing and responding to harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Some of these humanitarian realities, and how a declaration could respond to them, are set out below.

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