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

“Ireland remains gravely concerned at the humanitarian harm being caused during active hostilities in populated areas and in particular by the use of explosive ordnance and other explosive weapons whose effects extend beyond the immediate area of a legitimate military objective located within or close to concentrations of civilians. […] We recognise the need for States to engage constructively in efforts to address the humanitarian impact of EWIPA, including through the development of a possible political declaration, common practices, standards and operational policies and through the sharing of policy and practice. Ireland, like many other States, is committed to achieving a future political declaration on EWIPA.”

 

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

 

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

“Our work remains incomplete as long as conventional weapons continue to cause unacceptable harm to civilians in conflict zones. The continued use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas continues to devastate communities and poses a serious challenge to the implementation of International Humanitarian Law. The protection of civilians in armed conflict is a duty shared among all States. We must act to stem the devastating short and long term humanitarian impact of explosive weapons upon civilians. To this end, Ireland fully supports the recommendation of Secretary General to ‘develop a political declaration, appropriate limitations, common standards and operational policies in conformity with international humanitarian law relating to the use of EWIPA’.”

 

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

“At this time it is particularly urgent to explore how we can raise consciousness and strengthen compliance with International Humanitarian Law to prevent further civilian harm from the use of EWIPA. We commend the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross to highlight this challenge and we support the recommendation of the United Nations Secretary General for States to engage constructively in efforts to develop a Political Declaration to address the humanitarian impact of the use of EWIPA. In line with our prioritization of questions related to gender and disarmament, Ireland has sponsored a study of the gendered impacts of EWIPA by Handicap International which we will launch as a side event on Tuesday 17th October.”

“We regard the use of Explosive weapons with Wide Area Effects in Populated Areas as an increasingly serious challenge facing the international community. We share the deep concern at the escalating civilian causality rates and the damage to critical infrastructure from the use of these weapons in urban areas. We also point to the long-term impact on recovery and development, including gendered impacts. Ireland reiterates our support for a process which would lead to a Political Declaration confirming the need for compliance with international law in respect of the use of Explosive Weapons with Wide Area effects in Populated Areas.”

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

“Ireland wishes to direct the Council’s attention also to the issue of civilian harm from the conduct of hostilities in urban areas, particularly through the use of cluster munitions. Last year, when explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 92 per cent of those killed and injured were civilians. The immediate effects are clear; we have heard accounts in this Chamber of the destructive aftermath in cities in Yemen, Syria and many other places. What we often do not hear about is the longer-term effect — the stagnation of economic, social and environmental development, or the harm and injury caused by explosive remnants long after the initial conflict has ceased.

We therefore support the recommendation of the Secretary-General for States to engage constructively in efforts to develop a political declaration to address the humanitarian impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. We also urge all States to accede to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction and the Arms Trade Treaty. Illegal and irresponsible arms transfers to conflict regions must be stopped.

Finally, when discussing the issue of the protection of civilians we must also highlight the particular challenges faced by women and children. Ireland is supporting a civil society-led study to explore the specific risks faced by women and girls following forced displacement caused by explosive weapons in populated areas.”

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

“The use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas is a growing challenge which the international community must take urgent steps to address. States should take measures to prevent or at least minimise the humanitarian harm caused by the use of these weapons, in particular by ensuring full compliance with their obligations under IHL. Ireland would welcome further discussion, inter alia, on the secondary and tertiary effects of these weapons, on their potential gendered impact, and on an understanding of what constitutes protected civilian objects during an armed conflict, including in the context of the CCW.”

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

“Current challenges with regard to the use of conventional weapons are however many and are increasing. As we debate in this room, terrible loss of life, humanitarian harm to civilians, and destruction of civilian infrastructure is happening from the use of conventional weapons in current conflicts. This is true in particular of Syria where we are witnessing disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks with correspondingly high civilian casualties, including through the use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs and shocking evidence of incendiary weapons use in areas where there are concentrations of civilians. Well founded reports of indiscriminate explosive weapons use from Yemen and Ukraine, in particular with regard to cluster munitions use, are also deeply concerning.

Ireland regards this use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas as one ofthe most serious challenges facing us with regard to conventional weapons questions at this time. Our Minister Charles Flanagan raised this issue in his recent speech to the United Nations and we also acknowledge and welcome the attention being given to this question by the UNSG Ban Ki Moon, the ICRC, UNOCHOA as well as the Civil Society grouping INEW.

It is now a matter of urgency to explore how we can raise consciousness and strengthen the application of International Humanitarian Law in relation to Preventing Civilian Harm from the use of EWIPA. Ireland would also welcome consideration of this question during the upcoming Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons.”

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

“As we meet here in First Committee, we are witnessing terrible loss of life, humanitarian harm to civilians, and destruction of civilian infrastructure from the use of conventional weapons in current conflicts. This is true in particular of Syria, where we are witnessing disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks with correspondingly high civilian casualties with terrible regularity. Reports from Yemen and Ukraine, in particular with regard to cluster munitions use, are also deeply concerning. Ireland regards the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas as one of the most serious challenges facing us with regard to conventional weapons questions at this time.

Our Minister Charles Flanagan raised this issue in his recent speech to the United Nations and we also acknowledge and welcome the attention being given to this question by the Secretary General, the ICRC, OCHA as well as the Civil Society group INEW. Ireland believes that it is now a matter of urgency to explore how we can raise consciousness and strengthen the application of International Humanitarian Law in relation to Preventing Civilian Harm from the use of EWIPA. We welcome the Side Events which are being hosted during First Committee on this question as an opportunity to consider how we can urgently make progress and build support for action on this question.

Ireland would also welcome consideration of this question during the upcoming Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons.”

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

“Ireland would also wish to reiterate concern in relation to the use of Explosive Weapons with a Wide Area Impact in Populated areas as a growing challenge for international humanitarian law. We would like to thank Austria for organising with OCHA the Vienna meeting last September, in which we were pleased to participate.

It is clear to us that the escalating civilian casualty rates arising from the use of Explosive Weapons with a wide area impact in populated areas presents a significant challenge, which the international community must address. We strongly encourage maximum compliance with existing International Humanitarian Law, in particular the relevant provisions of Additional Protocol 1 of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions. In addition, Ireland believes that there would be value in the further exploration of how to minimize civilian harm, in particular by addressing the secondary and tertiary effects of use of these weapons, and by clarifying our understanding of what constitutes protected civilian objects during an armed conflict. This could also be an issue which the CCW could address.”

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

“As with small arms and light weapons, the conflicts we are witnessing today, are seeing an increasing number of casualties and harm being caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide area impact in populated areas. It is clear to us that the escalating civilian casualty rates, and destruction of civilian infrastructure, arising from their use, present a significant challenge which the international community must address.”

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

“The harm caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide area impact in populated areas is another emerging challenge for the international community. Ireland is concerned at the escalating civilian casualty rates and damage to essential infrastructure from the use of these weapons in populated areas. Ireland was pleased to participate in the recent meeting in Vienna on this topic and we support calls for the urgent further consideration of all aspects of this question, including possible gendered impacts.”

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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