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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 August 2016 Security Council open debate on the children and armed conflict:

“In Syria, the mass recruitment and use of children by Da’esh continued, as did attacks carried out by the Government against schools and hospitals, owing in large part to the increased use of air strikes and explosive weapons in populated areas.”

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

“…the use of heavy weapons, artillery and tanks, in urban areas and the use of all types of explosive weapons has reached a level that there is no longer any doubt” [that an armed conflict is taking place and that the Geneva Conventions should apply].”

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.”

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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