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Negotiations of the political declaration on strengthening the protection of civilians from use of explosive weapons in populated areas

State representatives, international and civil society organisations will meet in Geneva from 6-8 April 2022 to resume negotiations (under Ireland’s leadership) on the international political declaration aimed at strengthening the protection of civilians arising from the use of explosive weapons in towns, cities and other populated areas. 

Ireland released the revised draft political declaration on 3 March along with a Save the Date for the conference. 

INEW has published a detailed commentary on the declaration text, highlighting areas that have improved and underscoring the remaining areas that need strengthening, including: 

  • A commitment to “avoid” use of explosive weapons when they have wide area effects in populated areas would provide clarity and boldness to the core commitment in the declaration and in doing so, help to ensure the strongest protection to civilians. Commitment 3.3 should be strengthened in this way. 
  • The text should state that when used in populated areas, explosive weapons with wide area effects inevitably and significantly increases the risk of harm to civilians and damage to civilian objects given their concentration in populated areas, and describe the factors that produce wide area effects to promote a common understanding of it, including a wide blast and fragmentation radius, inaccuracy of delivery, and/or the firing of multiple warheads across an area.
  • Whilst the political declaration recognises the importance of tracking civilian casualties in military operations in the preamble, it does not provide a corresponding commitment to do so in section 3. Tracking civilian casualties in ‘real time’ tracks the number and rate of civilian casualties to inform how many civilians are being killed and injured, and whether the situation is improving or getting worse, which can help to shape both operational and policy responses to better protect civilians.
  • There needs to be a commitment in operative section 4 on gathering data on the use of explosive weapons, including types, locations and quantities used. Limiting use of explosive weapons in populated areas is at the centre of this declaration and needs to be corresponded with a commitment to collect and share data on any use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
  • We welcome the reference to rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need in the legal section. However, we are concerned that it only mentions “humanitarian passage” and not “humanitarian access”. The space for neutral humanitarian action must be protected and respected when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, and the parties to a conflict must facilitate sustained humanitarian access and humanitarian operations. Given the urgency of humanitarian needs of affected populations, a stronger reference to humanitarian access should be added in the preamble (1.2 and 2.3), and a stronger commitment should be added in operative section 4. 

The full commentary published by INEW on the draft political declaration is available here

The INEW Podcast on the draft political declaration is available here

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