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

“red lines have to be drawn for the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Germany has initiated a dialogue series in Geneva bringing together military practitioners, diplomats and humanitarian actors to work out best practices on how to minimize civilian casualties in urban theatres of conflict. We are glad that many states and the ICRC are playing a leading role in this joint endeavor.”

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:

“[W]e also need to identify red lines and improved practices for the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as discussed within our EWIPA-talks series in Geneva. We fully support UNSG Guterres’ decision to place EWIPA at the heart of his agenda for “Disarmament that Saves Lives”.”

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

“In populated areas explosive weapons have huge humanitarian consequences. To discuss the legal, technical, military and humanitarian aspects of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, short EWIPA, we organized an event in Geneva together with the International Committee of the Red Cross. We feel that the right framework for further discussion on this topic is the CCW. That is why we suggested including the topic on the agenda of this year’s meeting of High Contracting Parties. As a first step we have tabled two working papers on this issue.”

Statement during the December 2016 Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons:

“Last but not least Germany is concerned about the issue of explosive weapons in populated areas. The civil war in Syria amongst others has demonstrated the need to strengthen the compliance with IHL in this regard. We propose to hold an expert meeting within the CCW on this issue to address it in an inclusive and transparent way. ”

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

“Unexploded ordnance is but one of the reverberating effects of the use of explosive weapons that, due to their wide-area effects, may foreseeably cause significant civilian casualties and/or damage to civilian objects, as well as long-term harm to the civilian population when used against military objectives located in a concentration of civilians. Long-term effects caused on critical civil infrastructure is another. Conduct of hostilities in densely populated areas where military objectives are intermingled with protected persons and objects represents an important challenge both operationally and legally for armed forces to comply with international humanitarian law. We see a need to move towards a better understanding of States’ positions, policies and practices in this respect.”

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

“In Syria, indiscriminate aerial bombings, including the use of barrel bombs, and indiscriminate shelling continue to result in deaths, injuries an displacement of civilians including women and children. In December alone at least 107 civilians including 27 children were reportedly killed in Aleppo Governorate as a result of aerial attacks and shelling. This has further devastating effects. Many women and girls in conflict areas, as well as boys, do not leave their homes any more out of fear. As a consequence, they have no access to medical care or education. In such a situation, we face the risk of a generation of “lost children” without an education who bear the trauma of war.”

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

“Finally, as witnessed in Syria and beyond, indiscriminate attacks against civilians using explosive weapons with wide impact in densely populated areas remain an appalling aspect of conflicts to which the international community has to react. We share the concerns expressed by the Secretary-General in that context and welcome the Secretariat’s continued engagement with Member States and others to raise awareness of the issue and to provide further guidance on the matter.”

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

“The civil war in Syria is intensifying and, as we heard from the High Commissioner for Human Rights today, the pain and suffering it inflicts on the civilian population continue to increase in scale and scope. The war has moved into the major cities. Indiscriminate attacks on civilians, especially women and children, often caused by the use of explosive weapons with broad impact in densely populated areas, remain the most appalling aspect of the Syrian conflict.”

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

“…a central question is the application of the rule of distinction in today’s military operations. Experiences in recent conflicts beg the question of how the principle of distinction is implemented in practice, in particular when conducting warfare within densely populated areas. The devastating humanitarian impact of explosive weapons in densely populated areas is a major concern in this regard. We agree with the ICRC that explosive weapons with a wide-impact area should be avoided in densely populated areas. We welcome initiatives to address this issue in a more systematic and proactive way, including possible stronger engagement of the Security Council in this regard.”

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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