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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:

Statement during the General Debate of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly First Committee, 2018:

“Bangladesh shares growing concern over the humanitarian consequences of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including of those with wide area effects. We join other States in calling for the adoption of a possible future political declaration on addressing this issue.”

Statement during the May 2017 UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict:

“Fourthly, the ongoing efforts to end violence against women and children in armed conflict must enlist the support of all State and non-State actors. The underlying causes of forced displacements during armed conflict need to be addressed through inclusive multidimensional and comprehensive approaches. Medical facilities, educational institutions, specialist schools and places of worship should be kept out of harm’s way in the planning and conduct of hostilities. The use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects needs to be avoided in populated areas, considering their humanitarian impact. In certain contexts, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers can operate in tandem to gather information, raise awareness and respond to the needs of those affected.”

Statement during the February 2013 Security Council Debate on Children and Armed Conflict:

“We are deeply concerned by the availability and use of arms and explosive weapons in populated areas as a violation of international law, by increasing threats against the security of health care facilities and the delivery of health care services, and by the failure to comply with international humanitarian law.”

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