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

“Switzerland is gravely concerned about the devastating humanitarian impact of certain uses of explosive ordnance in cities, towns, villages or other areas containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects, commonly referred to as “populated areas”. Although data and records of civilian casualties might be incomplete, they point to the fact that when conflicts are fought in urban settings civilian death, injury and destruction of essential infrastructure is often very high. A number of recent case studies highlights both the direct and indirect effects of some uses of explosive ordnance in populated areas: a significant number of civilian deaths and injuries as well as the disruption of essential interconnected services such as medical and educational services or sanitation and energy networks. As access to essential goods and services diminishes, the civilian population is in more dire need and – as a last resort – is often forced to flee, leading to large number of displaced. Of course, these effects remain well after the end of hostilities and put under great strain the reconstruction efforts.”

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:

“Furthermore, the issue of the use by state and non-state actors of certain conventional weapons and explosive ordnances in areas containing concentrations of civilians or civilian objects is a source of concern to the international community. Anchoring this issue on the agenda of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) will allow its treatment in an inclusive setting and to deepen discussions with the goal of full implementation of IHL.”

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 November 2010 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict:

“We think it appropriate to continue to follow the issue of explosive weapons, especially with a view to better implementing international humanitarian law. The use of certain explosive weapons in densely populated areas is clearly a major source of suffering for civilians in situations of armed conflict. A more in-depth study could, for example, reveal the extent to which greater protection could limit these 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.”

On behalf of the Group of Friends on Protection of Civilians:

Statement during the June 2012 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict on behalf of the Group of Friends on Protection of Civilians (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, UK and Uruguay):

“The Group of Friends was also briefed on the humanitarian impact of the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas, which was identified as an issue by the Secretary-General. We call for compliance with IHL in the use of all weapons, to ensure and strengthen IHL training for those who operate them and compliance with IHL with respect to targeting.”

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