On 19 January 2016, the UN Security Council held an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. At the debate, Angola, Austria, Belgium, Poland, Spain, Ukraine and the Nordic Group of states raised the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as an issue for the protection of civilians, as did the UN Deputy Secretary-General, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and INEW member Oxfam during the civil society briefing to the debate.
Speaking for the first time on this issue, Angola, Poland and Ukraine supported the establishment of new standards to limit the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, joining twenty-five other states who have previously called for action.
Citing data collected by INEW member Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), the Deputy Secretary-General observed that “In 2014, civilians made up 92 per cent of the people killed or injured by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in situations of armed conflict. That carnage of innocent people must not continue…We must all work to achieve solid political commitments to refrain from using explosive weapons in populated areas.”
The debate addressed the latest report of the UN Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, which highlighted the civilian suffering caused by the bombing and bombardment of towns and cities with a thematic section on explosive weapons, and urged states to work towards a political commitment on this issue. A number of states referenced the report’s focus and recommendations on explosive weapons in their statements.
The ICRC noted the continuous and cumulative damage on critical civilian infrastructure that can be caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, “so that they cease to be able to provide essential services to meet people’s basic needs.” The ICRC called on states to elaborate their policies on the use of such weapons, and explain how their use of explosive weapons complies with the laws of war.
Spain situated harm from the use of barrel bombs in Syria within the “increasing trend in the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas,” condemning these actions and calling for an international political commitment on this issue to be developed.
For a full archive of statements from this and other debates on explosive weapons, see here. The full record of the debate can be found in UN Document S/PV.7606.