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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, on behalf of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden):

“We would like to see many more countries participating in the ongoing discussions on how to enhance the protection of civilians in conflict, and thereby improve compliance with international humanitarian law. There is a clear obligation to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants in conflict. We have witnessed in Syria, Yemen and Ukraine how the indiscriminate use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas has caused a degree of civilian loss of life that is clearly disproportionate and in violation of international humanitarian law. The destruction of critical infrastructure such as housing, schools and hospitals also makes post-conflict rehabilitation, peacebuilding and reconstruction more difficult long after the actual fighting is over.”

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.”

As part of the Nordic group:

Statement during the January 2016 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict on behalf of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) delivered by Sweden:

“We also support the call of the Secretary-General on parties in conflict to avoid using explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas.”

Statement during the June 2015 Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict on behalf of  Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden:

“We are also concerned by the severe impact on children of the continued use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Such indiscriminate use of weapons is prohibited under international humanitarian law and we would support practical steps to stop it.”

Statement during the February 2014 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict on behalf of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden):

“The use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas puts the civilian population at grave risk of death and injury and increases the destruction of vital infrastructure. The indiscriminate and disproportionate use of explosive weapons that we witness in many situations today must never be accepted. The need to ensure appropriate restrictions on warfare in such areas remains one of the central challenges of contemporary armed conflict.

At the same time, experience from Afghanistan and Somalia demonstrates how armed forces may, if the will is there, in fact restrain the use of explosive weapons in populated areas without impeding military effectiveness. We support the Secretary-General’s call for States to share information on policy and practice regarding that matter. We stand ready to contribute in developing practical measures and guidance on the basis of lessons learned.”

Statement during the February 2013 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict on behalf of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden):

“We share the concerns of the Secretary-General with regard to the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in densely populated areas. We recognize the need to gather data on the use and impact of explosive weapons in populated areas, including recording civilian casualties. We request the Secretary-General to include in his next report to the Council recommendations and analysis on the impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, as well as the practice of United Nations bodies, States and other actors on civilian casualty recording.”

Statement during the June 2012 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict by Finland on behalf of the Nordic Countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) delivered by Finland:

“In Syria we have seen medical doctors and surgeons directly targeted, wounded and killed. Ambulances are attacked and hospitals are damaged by explosive weapons.”

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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