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

“Civilians continue to be innocent victims of today’s conflicts. Regretfully the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is growing and causing unnecessary suffering, generating displacement and the death of many civilians, including children. 2 Moreover, vital infrastructures and services have been targeted, causing forced displacement and creating additional problems for reconstruction. We need to address effectively this alarming situation.”

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

“Protection of civilians in armed conflicts should be one of our priorities. In the last years, in several countries, homes, hospitals, schools and vital infrastructures have been targeted and bombarded. Regretfully explosive weapons have been used also in populated areas, causing unnecessary suffering, generating displacement and the death of many civilians. We urge all parts to refrain from the use of explosive devices in populated areas, so to reduce as much as possible severe injuries and the death of civilians, including children and aid workers.”

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