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

“Madagascar souhaite exprimer ses preoccupations concernant les armes explosives en zones peuplees ainsi que leurs impacts humains et particulierement sur les civils. Nous reiterons la Declaration de Maputo de 2017 faite en ce sens par 19 pays africains et appuyons, dans la meme optique, les recommandations du Secretaire general des Nations Unies quant au developpement des cooperations bilaterales et regionales axees sur cette question.”

 

Maputo Regional Meeting on Protecting Civilians from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas

Communique

Representatives of 19 African countries,[1] 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 Maputo, Mozambique, from 27-28 November 2017, 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 have expressed concern that explosive weapons used in populated areas cause deaths, injuries and traumas to civilian victims, damage and destroy essential infrastructure and critical services, drive forced displacement, leave explosive remnants of war that pose a threat in the long term, disrupt socio-economic activities and potentially compromise human security;

In their exchanges, the representatives concluded that the involvement of African States and 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 centers;

Furthermore, the State representatives acknowledged the need for further actions to address this issue at national, regional and international levels, inter alia:

  • 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;
  • 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 African 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.

Maputo, Mozambique, 28th November 2017

[1] Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia,, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

 

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.”

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