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 states that endorsed the statement were a diverse group from all world regions, and included conflict-affected countries as well as states engaged in the conduct of military operations: Angola, Argentina, Austria, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Central African Republic, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Guatemala, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Islamic Republic of Iran, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Zambia.
The full joint statement is available here: https://bit.ly/2OusrmP