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

Santiago Communiqué

Representatives of 23 Latin American and Caribbean states[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 Santiago, Chile, from 5-6 December 2018, 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 expressed concern that explosive weapons used in populated areas cause deaths, injuries and traumas to civilians, damage and destroy essential infrastructure and critical services, drive involuntary displacement, leave explosive remnants of war that pose a threat in the long term, disrupt social coexistence, economic activities and compromise human security.

In their exchanges, the representatives concluded that Latin American and Caribbean states as well as 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 centres.

Furthermore, State representatives acknowledged the need for further actions to address this issue at national, regional and international levels, in particular, but not limited to, the following:
–        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;
–        Act to enhance compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects, including school and hospitals during armed conflict and to contribute to alleviating humanitarian harm resulting from the effects of explosive weapons in populated areas;
–        Develop effective measures to prevent attacks in contravention of applicable international law against hospitals and schools and protected persons in relation to them;
–        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 Latin American and the Caribbean 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.

Santiago, Chile, December 2018

[1] Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Uruguay.

 

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:

“Also reprehensible is the growing use of explosive weapons and aerial bombings against civilian targets perpetrated by various parties to armed conflicts, including schools, hospitals and populated areas, which deprives children of access to education and has an adverse effect on the provision of humanitarian assistance.

In Syria, indiscriminate air attacks against civilian targets and zones are the main cause of death and maiming of children during the period covered by the report of the Secretary-General. The actions of armed groups also prevented 35,000 children from being vaccinated. According to the report, the number of attacks against schools and hospitals doubled in Yemen in 2014, with 59 attacks against hospitals and 42 against schools.”

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