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Statement during May 2019 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict:

“as in previous years, we thank the Secretary-General for his excellent report (S/2019/373). We note with particular concern that the report continues to highlight the grave consequences of urban warfare, including from the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas. For that reason, Austria will host an international conference on protecting civilians in urban warfare, which will take place on 1 and 2 October in Vienna. We look forward to broad participation at the conference and hope that it will contribute to raising awareness and strengthening the debate centred on finding concrete solutions.”

Statement during the December 2018 Annual Meeting of High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons – November 2018

“The humanitarian consequences of the use of explosive weapons are severe and cross sectoral. All efforts on EWIPA are mutually reinforcing. In order to effectively tackle the issue we need political commitment and technical expertise. This is why Austria will continue to address this concern in all relevant fora, in particular humanitarian, international security, arms control and disarmament fora. And with a group of interested actors Austria will continue to seek to implement the Secretary General`s call to work on a political declaration to enhance the protection of civilians from the effects of the use of EWIPA. We particularly appreciate the rising awareness on the humanitarian harm.”

Joint Statement on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas (EWIPA) during the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly’s First Committee – October 2018

In an unprecedented joint statement at the meeting of the UN General Assembly’s First Committee, fifty states expressed grave concern over the humanitarian harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The statement, delivered by Ireland, noted the “overwhelming evidence” of the humanitarian impact and devastating harm to civilians caused by use of explosive weapons which “far outlasts the conflicts in which they are used”, and highlighted in particular concerns over the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. States also emphasised that this devastation in turn “acts as a catalyst for the displacement of people within and across borders, rendering displaced persons and refugees vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.”

The statement called for efforts to reverse the trend of high levels of civilian harm, and to enhance respect for and compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL), whilst at the same time noting that in many conflict situations, questions remain over how the existing rules are being interpreted and translated into policies and practice on the ground. Over the past several years the UN Secretary-Generals have made repeated calls on states to develop measures to address this problem, including, as the statement notes, “the development of a political declaration, the development of common standards and operational policies or through the sharing of policies and practices.” The endorsing states expressed continued support for civil society which has worked effectively over the past several years to address the challenges posed by EWIPA and committed to “remain seized of efforts to address the humanitarian harm caused […] through the achievement of a possible future political declaration and by maintaining support for other relevant initiatives, including regional conferences.”

The full joint statement is available here: https://bit.ly/2OusrmP

 

Statement during the General Debate of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly First Committee, 2018:

“Today conflicts are increasingly taking place in urban areas. The use of explosive weapons in populated areas is therefore a particular concern to my country. The use of explosive weapons by armed forces but also by non-State actors in conflicts all over the world constitutes grave violations of international humanitarian law, resulting in tens of thousands of civilian deaths annually. The short and long-term humanitarian effects cause far too many direct victims but also make affected areas de facto uninhabitable. The urban context is reinforcing the reverberating effects. We cannot ignore that these effects are among the root causes for people being internally displaced or even having to flee their countries. Austria therefore reaffirms its commitment to reduce the devastating humanitarian harm caused by EWIPA. We call on all states to avoid, or in any event minimize the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.”

 

Statement during the General Debate of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly First Committee, 2017:

“Austria continues to be concerned about the use of explosive weapons in populated areas which has become the main reason for harm to civilians in many conflicts. When explosive weapons are used in populated areas, more than 90% of casualties are civilians. We have to state that this humanitarian problem has repercussions far beyond the immediate area of conflict. It is harm caused by explosive weapons which drives most of today´s refugees and internally displaced persons away from their warridden homes. The international community has to address this issue and cannot remain silent. Austria and a number of other States as well as representatives from UN agencies, the ICRC and civil society have started to look for multilateral action on this issue. A recent meeting in Geneva, hosted by the ICRC, will be followed by a side-event staged here in New York. Our aim is to strengthen the observance of existing international humanitarian law. Austria is ready to engage with interested delegations and civil society on 18 October at 13:15 in conference room A.”

Statement during the May 2017 UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict:

“Enhanced respect for international law, especially international humanitarian law, is of paramount importance, as highlighted by the Secretary-General and the representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross at the outset of the debate. Austria therefore welcomes the attention the Secretary-General gives in his report (S/2017/414) to the massive harm, destruction and negative long-term consequences of explosive weapons with wide-area impact when used in populated areas. The available data shows that 2016 was the worst year recorded within the past six years for civilian deaths resulting from explosive weapons. We therefore strongly support the clear and unequivocal call of the Secretary-General on all State and non-State parties to conflict to avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas and appreciate his encouragement regarding the efforts led by Austria on the development of a political declaration on that issue.”

Statement during UN General Assembly First Committee Debate on Conventional Weapons, October 2016:

“Austria would also highlight specifically the concern about the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as a major cause of civilian harm in many countries. An increasing number of governments share this concern. Civilian casualties from explosive weapons in urban settings amounted to a recorded global number of more than 40.000 deaths and injuries in 2014 alone, dramatically higher than military casualties and disproportionally affecting women and children. This is a humanitarian problem of extreme gravity. The recent bombing of Aleppo is a tragic example of this.

Unfortunately, there are other examples as well. The growing numbers of refugees that are currently forced to leave their war-ridden homes testify to this. Many people are desperate to find shelter abroad. precisely because of the violence and the use of explosive weapons in their countries of origin and the lack or breakdown of protection for civilian populations. And these people are the lucky ones!

In 2015. Austria and UN-OCHA jointly convened an international expert meeting on this problem in Vienna with around twenty States. the ICRC. various UN agencies. as well as civil society represented. This meeting highlighted the importance of awareness-raising on the basis of continuing collection and dissemination of data. as well as the sharing and promotion of States’ good practices in using explosive weapons. Significant support was expressed at a side event co-organized by Austria for a group of like- minded States on 4 October here in New York. We propose to issue an international political declaration to prevent civilian harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The United Nations Secretary General has encouraged all States to engage constructively in such an initiative.”

Statement during UN General Assembly First Committee General Debate, October 2016:

“Austria continues to be concerned about the civilian harm caused by the use or explosive weapons in populated areas which have become the main reason for harm to civilians in many conflicts. Worryingly, when explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 92% of the casualties were civilians. Let me add that this humanitarian problem has repercussions far beyond the immediate zones of conflict. It is harm caused by explosive weapons which has driven most of today’s refugees and internally displaced persons away from their war ridden homes.

The gravity of this issue was underscored by the attention it received at the World Humanitarian Summit last May in Istanbul. With the explicit support of the UN Secretary General, Austria and a number of other States as well as representatives from UN agencies. the ICRC and civil society. have started to look out for multilateral action on the issue. This afternoon. a meeting with other committed countries will start to discuss possible elements of an international political declaration on the protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. From our point of view. strengthening the observance of existing international humanitarian law would be one of the important objectives of such a declaration. Austria is ready to engage with delegations who are interested to learn more and will host a side-event with the NGO-coalition INEW on that issue on 6 October in conference room 13.”

Statement by Sebastian Kurz, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, at the UN General Assembly, 21 September 2016:

“We also need to put an end to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. When such weapons are used in cities and other urban areas, as we have seen in Syria, more than 90 per cent of the victims are civilians. The destruction of homes, hospitals, schools, and other infrastructure forces people to leave. Without these weapons, the world would be a safer place, especially for children, women, and elderly people. We will therefore convene a meeting in early October to promote this goal and we hope for all your support.”

Statement during the June 2016 Security Council open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict:

“One of the most severe current challenges in this field is the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. We strongly welcome the Secretary-General’s focus on this issue in his report, and were pleased to see it feature prominently at the World Humanitarian Summit. Together with a number of other countries, Austria used this opportunity to subscribe to one of the Summit’s core commitments related to the use of these weapons, pledged an additional commitment and hosted a side event on this issue. Austria continues to support the objective of an international political commitment dedicated to the protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and joins the Secretary-General in his call on all States to engage in this initiative.”The recent World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul has allowed us to affirm the importance of complying with international humanitarian law. Conduct in hostilities is subject to a number of rules that cannot and should not be violated with impunity. I refer to the use of explosives in densely populated areas, barrel bombs and cluster munitions, among others.”

Joint Commitment 123002 to the World Humanitarian Summit led by Austria, with Costa Rica, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, Mozambique, Spain, and Zambia, May 2016:

“Austria pledges to continue to engage in raising international awareness about the challenge for the protection of civilians in armed conflict posed by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. It commits to support the collection of data on the direct civilian harm and the reverberating effects on civilians and civilian objects resulting from the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas, and to contribute to the collection and exchange of information on good practices and lessons learned in minimizing impacts on civilians when using such weapons in populated areas. It further pledges to continue to look for effective measures to strengthen the respect for international humanitarian law in this regard, among them an international political declaration on the issue.”

Aligned with World Humanitarian Summit Core Commitments to ‘Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity’, May 2016, including:

“Commit to promote and enhance the protection of civilians and civilian objects, especially in the conduct of hostilities, for instance by working to prevent civilian harm resulting from the use of wide-area explosive weapons in populated areas, and by sparing civilian infrastructure from military use in the conduct of military operations.”

Statement to the World Humanitarian Summit Roundtable on Upholding the Norms that Safeguard Humanity, May 2016:

“Given the horrendous and often long-lasting consequences for civilians as a result of the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas Austria will raise international awareness, support the collection of data on direct civilian harm and the exchange of good practices and lessons as well as look for effective measures to strengthen the respect for international humanitarian law, including an international political declaration. So far this pledge is supported by Costa Rica, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Mozambique and Spain.”

Statement during January 2016 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict:

“Austria also highlights the concern about the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as a major cause of civilian harm in many countries. In most armed conflicts, civilian casualties from explosive weapons in populated areas dramatically outweigh military casualties. This is a grave humanitarian problem and a severe challenge for the protection of civilians in armed conflict.”

Statement during the December 2015 Meeting of States Parties of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons:

“Let me emphasise here, however, that IEDs, associated predominantly with non-State actors, are only part of a broader picture. We talk about the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. In numerous scenarios of armed conflict around the world, it is not only non-State actors but also regular armed forces of States which use bombs, grenades, artillery shells, IEDs and the like in urban settings. All too often, this practice results in grave violations of the principle of protection of civilians as enshrined in international humanitarian law, exacting an unacceptable toll on civilian populations. Neither is it a problem that can be restricted to a limited number of conflict zones. The growing numbers of refugees that are currently leaving their war-ridden home regions for European countries testify to this.

The United Nations Secretary General has long been drawn the attention of the international community to the pressing challenge to mitigate the humanitarian impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. As a long standing promoter of the cause of protection of civilians, Austria together with an increasing number of other countries shares the Secretary General’s concern that it is high time for States to jointly look for more effective ways to prevent civilian harm resulting from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

That is why recently Austria together with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs assembled in Vienna representatives from interested States, the International Committee of the Red Cross, United Nations entities, as well as civil society organisations to look into possible paths towards a response by the international community. Among the outcomes of the meeting was the proposal that interested States should elaborate together a multilateral political commitment, possibly in the form of a political declaration, recognising the urgent humanitarian problem associated with the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and committing States to take concrete steps. We stand ready to share more information about the results of deliberations at Vienna with interested delegations.”

Statement during UN General Assembly First Committee General Debate, October 2015:

“Austria would also highlight specifically the concern about the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as a major cause of civilian harm in many countries. Civilian casualties from explosive weapons in populated areas amounted to more than 40.000 deaths and injuries in 2014 alone, dramatically outweighing military casualties. This is a humanitarian problem of extreme gravity and a severe challenge for the protection of civilians in armed conflict as stipulated by international humanitarian law. This is not a problem that can be restricted to a limited number of conflict zones. The growing numbers of refugees that are currently leaving their war-ridden home regions are a testimony of this. Many people are desperate to find shelter abroad, precisely from the use of explosive weapons and the lack of protection for civilian populations.

Recently, Austria and UN-OCHA convened an international expert meeting on this problem in Vienna with around twenty States, the ICRC, various UN agencies, as well as civil society represented. This meeting highlighted the importance of awareness raising on the basis of continuing collection and dissemination of data, as well as the sharing and promotion of States’ good practices in using explosive weapons. Moreover, significant support was expressed among participants for the proposal of the UN Secretary-General to start working on an international political declaration to prevent civilian harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.”

Statement during UN General Assembly First Committee Debate on Conventional Weapons, October 2015:

“Austria would also highlight specifically the concern about the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as a major cause of civilian harm in many countries. An increasing number of governments shares this concern. Civilian casualties from explosive weapons in urban settings amounted to a recorded global number of more than 40.000 deaths and injuries in 2014 alone, dramatically higher than military casualties. This is a humanitarian problem of extreme gravity and a severe challenge for the protection of civilians in armed conflict as stipulated by international humanitarian law. Neither is it a problem that can be restricted to a limited number of conflict zones. The growing numbers of refugees that are currently leaving their war-ridden home regions testify to this. Many people are desperate to find shelter abroad, precisely from the violence and the use of explosive weapons in their countries of origin and the lack or breakdown of protection for civilian populations.

Recently, Austria and UN-OCHA jointly convened an international expert meeting on this problem in Vienna with around twenty States, the ICRC, various UN agencies, as well as civil society represented. This meeting highlighted the importance of awareness raising on the basis of continuing collection and dissemination of data, as well as the sharing and promotion of States’ good practices in using explosive weapons. Moreover, significant support was expressed among participants for the proposal to start working on an international political declaration to prevent civilian harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The United Nations Secretary General has encouraged States in his latest report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict to engage constructively in such an initiative.”

Statement during June 2015 Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict:

“We commend the Secretariat’s efforts, including the expert seminars organized in the past two years by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in London and Oslo, to raise awareness about the devastating humanitarian consequences of explosive weapons for civilians, including children, and to restrict their use in populated areas where they cause indiscriminate harm. Austria itself will host an expert meeting in Vienna on 21 and 22 September 2015. We welcome the Secretary-General’s recommendation to avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas and the Secretariat’s efforts to develop practical measures and guidance to reduce their humanitarian impact. In that regard, we welcome the Secretary-General’s initiative to study national practices, and we encourage countries to support him in that regard.”

Statement during January 2015 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict:

“An area of particular concern to Austria is explosive weapons. We commend the Secretariat’s efforts, including the Expert Seminars organised by OCHA over the last two years in London and Oslo, to raise awareness about the devastating humanitarian consequences of explosive weapons for civilians – including women – and to restrict their use in populated areas where they cause indiscriminate harm. Austria will itself host an expert meeting in Vienna this September.

We welcome the Secretary-General’s recommendation to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, as well as the Secretariat’s efforts to develop practical measure and guidance to reduce their humanitarian impact. In this regard we welcome the initiative by the Secretary-General to study national practices and we encourage countries to support him in this regard.”

Statement during the General Debate of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly First Committee, 2014:

“The use of explosive weapons in populated areas is increasingly recognised as a key concern for the international community, witnessing high numbers of civilians casualties and devastating effects of these weapons to infrastructure, socio-economic development as well as forced displacement. The international community should step up its efforts and explore ways on how to provide adequate protection to civilians from the severe harm of these weapons. Austria in partnership with the International Network for Explosive Weapons will host a side event on this issue on 22 October.”

Statement during the Conventional Weapons Debate of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly First Committee, 2014:

“The increased use of explosive weapons in populated areas has become a huge concern for the international community, witnessing high numbers of civilian casualties and devastating effects of these weapons to infrastructure, socio-economic development as well as forced displacement. The international community should step up its efforts and explore ways on how to more effectively implement the existing legal framework in order to provide adequate protection to civilians from the severe harm of these weapons. Austria in partnership with the International Network for Explosive Weapons will host a side event on this issue today at 1:15 hours in Room A and I invite you all to participate.”

Statement during February 2014 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict:

“We commend the Secretariat’s efforts, including the Chatham House seminar organized by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs last year, to raise awareness about the devastating humanitarian consequences of explosive weapons for civilians and to restrict their use in populated areas, where they cause indiscriminate harm. Austria welcomes the Secretary-General’s recommendation to avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas and the Secretariat’s efforts to develop practical measures and guidance to reduce their humanitarian impact. We stand ready to assist in those endeavours.”

Statement during the June 2012 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict:

“Austria welcomes the Emergency Relief Coordinator’s appeals in this regard and supports the ICRC’s view and the Secretary General’s recommendation that explosive weapons with a wide area impact should be avoided in densely populated areas. Under International Humanitarian Law their use is not prohibited as such, but the heightened risk of indiscriminate harm and the appalling suffering they cause when used in densely populated areas should be reason enough for us to consider this issue in depth, including the possibility of developing stronger international standards. More systematic data collection, the refinement of national policies on the use of explosive weapons and conducting post-strike analysis are important in this respect.”

Statement during the May 2011 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict:

“We also share the concern of the Secretary-General over the threat posed to civilians by explosive weapons, as outlined in his 2010 report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Deployed in populated areas, these weapons cause unacceptable suffering for women, children and men, even years after their initial use. Austria urges all States to accede to and strengthen relevant international instruments, such as the Mine Ban Treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and Additional Protocols II and V to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.”

As part of the Human Security Network:

Statement during February 2014 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict on behalf of the Human Security Network (Austria, Chile, Costa Rica, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, Norway, Panama, Switzerland, Thailand, Slovenia & South Africa as an observer) delivered by Slovenia:

“The Network reiterates its call on all parties to an armed conflict to refrain from using explosive weapons with a wide impact area in populated areas. It stresses the importance of establishing mechanisms to track civilian casualties so as to understand the impact of military operations on civilian populations and adjust such action. An important step was taken in April 2013 with the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty and that agreement’s prohibition of transfers of arms or items covered by it if the transferring State knows, at the time of authorization, that the arms or items will be used to commit serious crimes. We remain especially concerned about the use of explosive weapons, in particular improvised explosive devices, and stress the need to enhance compliance with international humanitarian law.”

Statement during the August 2013 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict on behalf of the Human Security Network (Austria, Chile, Costa Rica, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, Norway, Panama, Switzerland, Thailand, Slovenia & South Africa as an observer) delivered by Chile:

“Let me also stress the Network’s strong concern over use of explosive weapons in populated areas which causes severe harm to individuals and communities. These weapons are indiscriminate within their zones of detonation and therefore can pose unacceptable risks to civilians. We call for all relevant actors to refrain from using such weapons in densely populated areas. We believe that more systematic data collection would be important in this respect.”

As a member of the European Union (EU):

EU statement during the General Debate of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly First Committee, 2017:

“We recognise the challenges associated with the use of explosive weapons and munitions in densely populated areas and their potential impact on civilians and call on all parties to armed conflict to fully comply with International Humanitarian Law.”

The EU Aligned with World Humanitarian Summit Core Commitments to ‘Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity’, May 2016, including:

“Commit to promote and enhance the protection of civilians and civilian objects, especially in the conduct of hostilities, for instance by working to prevent civilian harm resulting from the use of wide-area explosive weapons in populated areas, and by sparing civilian infrastructure from military use in the conduct of military operations.”

EU Statement during the August 2013 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict:

“We continue to be very preoccupied by the humanitarian impact of the use of weapons in densely populated areas. We take note of the view expressed by the ICRC that the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area must be avoided in densely populated areas.”

EU Statement during the June 2012 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict:

“…we furthermore continue to be very preoccupied by the humanitarian impact of the use of weapons in densely populated areas. We take note of the view expressed by the ICRC that the use of explosive weapons with a wide area impact should be avoided in densely populated areas. This issue should be addressed in a more systematic and proactive way.”

EU Statement during the May 2011 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict:

“Despite all efforts, civilians continue to be victims of disproportionate attacks, deliberate targeting and the indiscriminate use of weapons. Explosive weapons used in populated areas have a high humanitarian impact on civilians and civilian infrastructure.”

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