Santiago Regional Meeting on Protecting Civilians from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas – December 2018
Representatives of 23 Latin American and Caribbean states,the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Network on Explosive Weapons and other civil society organizations, met in Santiago, Chile, from 5-6 December 2018, to share knowledge and evidence on the distinctive pattern of harm caused to civilians by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and to explore steps to address this harm at a political and operational level.
Representatives expressed concern that explosive weapons used in populated areas cause deaths, injuries and traumas to civilians, damage and destroy essential infrastructure and critical services, drive involuntary displacement, leave explosive remnants of war that pose a threat in the long term, disrupt social coexistence, economic activities and compromise human security.
In their exchanges, the representatives concluded that Latin American and Caribbean states as well as civil society can play a pivotal role in enhancing the protection of civilians from the harm caused by explosive weapons in a time when armed conflicts are increasingly fought in population centres.
Furthermore, State representatives acknowledged the need for further actions to address this issue at national, regional and international levels, in particular, but not limited to, the following:
– Encourage collection of data and information to increase awareness and enhance knowledge about the impact of explosive weapons on civilians in populated areas;
– Avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas;
– Act to enhance compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects, including school and hospitals during armed conflict and to contribute to alleviating humanitarian harm resulting from the effects of explosive weapons in populated areas;
– Develop effective measures to prevent attacks in contravention of applicable international law against hospitals and schools and protected persons in relation to them;
– Fully support the process that will lead to the negotiation and adoption of an international political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas;
– Promote bilateral and regional cooperation through sharing experiences, good practices and expertise on reducing the harm caused by explosive weapons to civilians;
– Constructively engage in discussions and initiatives at international level that could effectively provide greater protection to civilians in armed conflicts;
– Foster deeper and further engagement from Latin American and the Caribbean states and facilitate increased involvement as a group of States;
– Continue and strengthen cooperation and partnerships with international organizations and civil society organizations to draw upon their relevant expertise and support;
– Channel contributions to the draft international political declaration on the matter, as well as engage in advocacy, at national, regional and international levels.
Santiago, Chile, December 2018
 Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Uruguay.
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:
“Nos genera gran preocupaci6n que algunos pafses busq uen cada vez mas la seguridad en las armas y que el comercio mundial de armas continue creciendo a niveles nunca vistos, resultando en la acumulaci6n de grandes arsenales, incluso en regiones altamente vulnerables y propensas a conflictos de violencia armada. Es asf tambien que, a como los conflictos armados se mueven de campos abiertos de guerra a centros urbanos, son siempre las poblaciones mas vulnerables las mas afectadas. Es igualmente deplorable el uso de armas explosivas con efectos de amplio rango en zonas pobladas, cuyo uso debe ca lificarse como un problema humanitario que debe ser atendido con urgencia. En est a lfnea, mi pafs se une a la declaraci6n conjunta sobre este tema pronunciada por lrlanda al inicio de este debate.”
Statement during the May 2017 UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict:
“All parties to armed conflict have the international obligation to respect the norms of international humanitarian law, namely to ensure that the wounded and sick receive, in accordance with basic ethical principles, the medical care that they need to safeguard their lives, and also that the personnel carrying out medical missions receive protection. Barriers posed to the provision of humanitarian and medical assistance to the civilian population represent a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, and deliberate attacks on health personnel, medical facilities and places where the injured and the sick are held are war crimes under international law. They also have an immediate impact on the civilian population and the availability of basic health-care services in areas of conflict, exacerbating their also appalling living conditions. It is unacceptable that the parties to an armed conflict should interrupt the supply of drinking water, electricity, gas, food, medication or humanitarian assistance to the civilian population. They must stop using civilian populations as cannon fodder to achieve their political and military aims. The parties must stop locating military targets in medical facilities, move away from major urban centres and refrain from using explosive weapons in cities and other populated areas.
Costa Rica supports the recommendations of the Secretary- General and the appeals made by International Committee of the Red Cross to avoid the use of explosives within or close to densely populated areas and or explosive weapons with wide-ranging effects. We reiterate our support for international efforts aimed at putting an end to explosive weapons in densely populated areas. This is an essential obligation for us.”
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.”
Statement by Austria 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 UN General Assembly First Committee General Debate, October 2015:
“The eleventh report from the Secretary General regarding the protection of civilians in armed conflicts (S/2015/453), published on June 15, recounts a heartbreaking landscape around the world. Of the 17 conflicts analyzed by the report, only two cross borders. To this we add the data supplied by the NGO Action on Armed Violence, which estimates that nearly 150 thousand people have been killed or injured by explosive weapons in populated areas between 2011 and 2014. Of these, 78% were civilians.
Despite the high technological sophistication of military and security capabilities, civilians— particularly the most vulnerable sectors—continue to be the main recipients of direct violence that stems from the use of force.
For this reason, Costa Rica rejects and condemns the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, as we have seen in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Gaza. Costa Rica calls upon all States to develop stricter standards and commitments to prohibit and restrict their use, not only as a means to end egregious violations of international humanitarian law, but because drastically reducing harm to civilians is fundamental to reducing the incentives of local populations to take up arms and join extremist causes. My delegation endorses the Secretary General’s recommendation that parties to conflict should refrain from the use in populated areas of explosive weapons with wide-area effect and we recognize that such use is a humanitarian problem that must be addressed.”
Statement during January 2015 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict:
“We call on the signatories to ratify the [Cluster Munitions] Convention and on all other States to join. States parties to the Convention are legally obligated to stop using them, but given the impact of these weapons on civilians, it is a moral obligation for everyone else. Costa Rica therefore also supports an international commitment to ending the use of explosive munitions in densely populated areas.”
Statement during the Conventional Weapons Debate of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly First Committee, 2014:
“Also, Costa Rica is concern by the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas and its pervasive impact on civilians and infrastructure. We absolutely must act to prevent this prevalence and its impact. Therefore, Costa Rica supports calls for an international commitment to curb the use in populated areas of explosive weapons with wide area effects.”
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.”