A meeting of states, international organisations and civil society in Oslo, 23-24 May 2013, on Reclaiming Protection of Civilians under International Humanitarian Law strongly highlighted the impact of explosive weapons in populated areas on civilians. Some 300 people participated, including representatives from 94 states.
The Co-Chairs’ summary of the meeting notes that “the use of explosive force in military operations in densely populated areas has devastating humanitarian consequences for civilians. In particular, the use of explosive weapons with a wide area effect should be avoided.” This conference builds on a series of regional workshops that have taken place as part of this initiative, in Argentina, Austria, Indonesia and Uganda.
In advance of the meeting, INEW circulated an advocacy sheet on the problem of explosive weapons in populated areas urging states to engage in discussion in order to:
* Acknowledge that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas frequently causes unacceptably high levels of harm to civilians and communities, and furthers suffering by damaging vital infrastructure;
* Commit to further work on this issue – including focused discussions to develop responses that will improve civilian protection;
* Recognise the need to end the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas and endorse the Conference’s draft recommendation to this effect.
During the first session of the conference, Richard Moyes gave a presentation on behalf of INEW, as part of a panel that heard presentations from CIVIC on reform of indirect-fire policy in the AMISOM mission to Somalia, and the Norwegian military on efforts to avoid civilian casualties in recent operations.
The conference also saw a joint side-event where Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) and Human Rights Watch presented their recent research on the impact of explosive weapons internationally in 2012 and in Syria specifically.
The Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs announced during the conference that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs plans to host an expert meeting on the impact of explosive weapons in populated areas later in 2013.