Vienna Conference marks a turning point as states support negotiation of an international political declaration on explosive weapons
133 countries gathered in Vienna for a Conference on the Protection of Civilians in Urban Warfare on 1-2 October 2019 where states discussed the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, the legal context and examples of good military practice.
The meeting ended with widespread support from states for developing an international political declaration to prevent and reduce the harms resulting from bombing and shelling in towns and cities, including civilian deaths and injury, destruction of infrastructure and essential services, psychological trauma, and displacement.
The Vienna Conference is a watershed moment. The International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) has long advocated for recognition of the humanitarian challenges raised by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and has carried out several studies on this subject.
Around 40 states intervened in the final session of the Vienna Conference on “the way forward” to talk about next steps, with widespread support for developing an international political declaration.
In the last couple of years, African states have met in Mozambique and Latin American and Caribbean states met in Chile, with both regional meetings resulting in regional communiqués urging work to begin on agreeing an international commitment on explosive weapons.
Ireland announced that it will convene states in Geneva on 18 November 2019 for open consultations on the text of a new international political declaration, with a view to finalising it in the Spring of 2020.
So far, a group of around 80 countries have voiced support for developing an international political declaration on explosive weapons. States that announced support for a political declaration for the first time include Belgium, France, Lesotho, Nicaragua and the Philippines.
INEW has laid out its view on possible elements of an international political declaration on explosive weapons to raise international standards, help shape the conduct of parties to armed conflict and assist victims and communities harmed by explosive weapons. A political declaration could describe the harm we are committed to preventing, and contain action-oriented commitments for endorsing states to:
- Develop operational policies and procedures that will stop the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas
- Share positive practice and policy
- Provide assistance to victims towards the realisation of their rights, and support affected communities
- Support and undertake data gathering, including casualty recording, with data on victims disaggregated by age, sex and disability
- Enable humanitarian and protection measures, and
- Build a community of practice, including through regular meetings to discuss the issue and progress towards reducing harm.
States who have expressed their support for a political declaration on explosive weapons
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Central African Republic
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Islamic Republic of Iran
- New Zealand
- North Macedonia
- San Marino
- Sri Lanka
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
Participating countries at the Vienna Conference (133 states)
Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Canada, Cameroon, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Eswatini, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya,, Lao PDR, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, UAE, UK, USA, Uruguay, Viet Nam, Yemen.
Photo: Rajab, 63, suffered severe injuries in both legs when his house was bombed in Syria, in 2013. © C. Fohlen/ Handicap International.