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The harm caused by explosive weapons around the world: Recent research and policy analysis

On 21 and 22 September, Austria and UN OCHA have invited interested states, international and civil society organisations to join discussions in Vienna aimed at addressing harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including through a possible political commitment. Below is a round up of research and policy analysis from INEW members and other organisations released in recent months, looking at the impact on civilians in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and across the world.

More than 40 countries have recognised bombing and bombardment in towns and cities as a specific problem, with 25 calling for action to address it. INEW urges states to take the opportunity of the Vienna meeting to recognise the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and to discuss the elements of a political commitment on this issue: read INEW’s briefing booklet for detailed recommendations.

 

Human Rights Watch investigation of coalition airstrikes in Saada © Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch investigation of coalition airstrikes in Saada © Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch: Inevitable civilian harm caused by explosive weapons use in Yemen

In their latest reports documenting the devastation and suffering caused by explosive weapons in Yemen Human Rights Watch urged all parties to the conflict not to use explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas, because of the inevitable civilian harm caused.

Read their reports recording harm from coalition airstrikes in Saada and Houthi artillery use in Aden, released in July.

UN in Afghanistan documents impact of explosive weapons on civilians

The latest mid-year report from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on the protection of civilians, released in August, showed that the majority of documented civilian casualties in Afghanistan attributed ‘pro-government forces’ in 2015 so far were caused by explosive weapons.

Trading arms, bombing towns: the lethal connection between the international arms trade and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

Reaching Critical Will of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) examines the connections between the international arms trade and the humanitarian harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in different conflicts across the world in a briefing paper released in September. ‘Trading Arms, Bombing Towns‘ explores the potential effects that stricter prohibitions against arms transfers and development of new commitments against the use of explosive weapons in populated weapons could have on reducing humanitarian harm and the drivers of displacement.

Action on Armed Violence: Explosive weapons and their impact on the refugee crisis

In September, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) explored the links between civilian suffering from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, particularly in Syria, and the current refugee crisis. The Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator of the UN recently highlighted that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is the primary cause of civilian deaths and injuries in Syria.

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom: Explosive weapons and the impact on women in Syria

In June, INEW member WILPF made a statement to the UN Human Rights Council on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and the distinct impact on women in Syria. It draws attention to the impact on rights to education, employment and freedom of movement, among other aspects.

First committee briefing book 2015: background and recommendations to states on explosive weapons

A house destroyed by airstrikes in Saada, Yemen © Human Rights Watch

A house destroyed by airstrikes in Saada, Yemen © Human Rights Watch

Reaching Critical Will of WILPF’s first committee briefing book highlights a number of critical disarmament topics and suggests how governments can achieve progress. INEW’s contribution gives background on the explosive weapons issue and recommendations to states for action that can be taken during and beyond the UN General Assembly first committee discussions this autumn.

INEW recommends that states:

During First Committee:

  • Recognise that civilian harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is a humanitarian problem that must be addressed.
  • Endorse the UN Secretary-General’s recommendation that the use in densely populated areas of explosive weapons with wide area effects should be avoided.
  • Set out national policies and practices related to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including in response to the Note Verbale sent by the UN Secretary-General to all states, via their Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in New York.
  • Indicate support for the development of an international commitment to reduce harm from the use of explosive weapons, including by stopping the use in populated areas of explosive weapons with wide area effects.

Beyond First Committee:

  • States should participate constructively in discussions to develop an international commitment to address this humanitarian priority.

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