Belgium has been a vocal advocate against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA). It has acknowledged the harm caused by the use of EWIPA and committed to action on the issue.
Belgium has delivered statements condemning the use of EWIPA, highlighting the harm it causes to civilians, particularly children, and the need for states to abide by international humanitarian law (IHL). It has called for avoiding this practice. Belgium has delivered such statements during the UN Security Council Debate on Children and Armed Conflict in 2012, 2015, and 2016 and during the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in 2014, 2016, and 2019.
As a member of the European Union (EU), Belgium has signed onto numerous joint statements condemning the use of EWIPA and the harms it causes to civilians and civilian objects, including during the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in 2011, 2012, and 2013. The EU also spoke out against the use of EWIPA during the General Debate of the 72nd UN General Assembly First Committee in 2017, recognising its potential impact on civilians and calling on all parties to armed conflict to fully comply with IHL.
Belgium also endorsed the Ireland-led joint statement during the 74th United Nations General Assembly First Committee in 2019. The statement encouraged states to participate in international efforts to address the impacts of the use of EWIPA on civilians, including by working towards the creation of an international political declaration on this issue.
Belgium aligned with the World Humanitarian Summit Core Commitments to ‘Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity’ in its national capacity and as an EU member state in May 2016. This included the commitment “to promote and enhance the protection of civilians and civilian objects, especially in the conduct of hostilities, for instance by working to prevent civilian harm resulting from the use of wide-area explosive weapons in populated areas, and by sparing civilian infrastructure from military use in the conduct of military operations.”
At the UN Security Council Open Debate War in Cities: Protection of Civilians in Urban Settings on 25 January 2022, the EU expressed concern with the indiscriminate use of EWIPA, including near hospitals, schools, and universities. At this same meeting, the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (of which Belgium is a member) called on states to enhance the protection of civilians, including from the use of EWIPA, and took note of the ongoing consultations to develop a political declaration on this subject. In its national capacity, Belgium welcomed the development of the political declaration on the use of EWIPA and called for additional measures against the use of EWIPA such as specific policies, exchange of best practices, and military training.
Belgium has been an active participant in the process for a political declaration on EWIPA use.
In the 2019 consultations for a political decision, Belgium emphasised that there should be a focus on promoting IHL as a sufficient existing framework, as strengthening compliance with IHL would be useful to effectively regulate the use of EWIPA without needing to create new obligations. In its statement, Belgium called for the consideration of non-state actors within the political declaration and suggested that good management of munitions and prevention of arms diversion could be an important inclusion in this regard. Belgium also specified that the declaration should recognise the humanitarian impacts of EWIPA use, especially of explosive weapons with wide area effects. As part of this recognition, the declaration should address indirect, long-term, and reverberating effects of EWIPA, such as displacement, disruption of essential services, increased poverty, destruction of the environment, contamination through explosive remnants of war, psychological trauma, disabilities, and similar issues.
At the second consultations for a political declaration in 2020, Belgium called for balance between military necessity and humanitarian concern in the political declaration and expressed concerns with “excessive collateral damage.” Belgium, along with others, also supported the use of qualifiers within the political declaration, indicating that instead of saying that EWIPA use “is having” devastating impacts, the declaration should say that it “can have” these impacts or that these impacts “can arise” from EWIPA use. During the consultations, Belgium emphasised its concern about indiscriminate use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas and stated that the political declaration needs to distinguish between lawful and unlawful use of EWIPA and should focus on minimising civilian harm.
At the March 2021 consultations for a political declaration, Belgium reaffirmed many of these positions, indicating that it only wanted the declaration to address what it refers to as “indiscriminate use” of explosive weapons and that it should explicitly distinguish between the lawful and unlawful use of EWIPA, otherwise it would stigmatise explosive weapons generally.
 UN Security Council, S/PV.6838 (2012). ‘UN Security Council Open Debate on Children in Armed Conflict Meeting Transcript.’ https://undocs.org/en/S/PV.6790(Resumption1).
 UN Security Council, S/PV.7466 (2015). ‘UN Security Council Open Debate on Children in Armed Conflict Meeting Transcript.’ https://undocs.org/en/S/PV.7466.
 UN Security Council, S/PV.7753 (2016). ‘UN Security Council Open Debate on Children in Armed Conflict Meeting Transcript.’ https://undocs.org/en/S/PV.7753.
 UN Security Council, S/PV.7109 (2014). ‘UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians Meeting Transcript.’ https://undocs.org/en/S/PV.7109.
 UN Security Council, S/PV.7711 (2016). ‘UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians Meeting Transcript.’ https://undocs.org/en/S/PV.7711.
 UN Security Council S/PV.8534 (2019). ‘UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians Meeting Transcript.’ https://undocs.org/en/S/PV.8534.
 European Union (2011). ‘Statement during the May 2011 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.’ http://www.peacewomen.org/sites/default/files/eu_poc_11may2011_0.pdf.
 European Union (2012). ‘Statement during the June 2012 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.’ http://www.peacewomen.org/security-council/security-council-open-debate-protection-civilians-armed-conflict-june-2012.
 European Union (2013). ‘Statement during the August 2013 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.’ https://undocs.org/en/S/PV.7019.
 European Union (2017). ‘UNGA72 First Committee Statement’. https://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com17/statements/18Oct_EU.pdf.
 INEW (2019). ‘Seventy-one states call for action on impact of explosive weapons in joint statement to UN General Assembly.’ https://www.inew.org/seventy-one-states-call-for-action-on-impact-of-explosive-weapons-in-joint-statement-to-un-general-assembly/.
 Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations (2019). ‘UNGA74 First Committee Joint Statement on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas (EWIPA)’. https://article36.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/UNGA74-joint-statement-on-explosive-weapons-in-populated-areas.pdf.
 Agenda for Humanity Archives. ‘Belgium’. https://agendaforhumanity.org/stakeholder/127.html.
 Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will (2022). ‘UN Security Council debates war in cities and the protection of civilians.’ https://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/news/latest-news/16009-un-security-council-debates-war-in-cities-and-the-protection-of-civilians.
 Belgium (2019). ‘Protecting Civilians in Urban Warfare – EWIPA– Consultations informelles– Intervention de la Belgique.’ https://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/ewipa/declaration/statements/18Nov_Belgium.pdf.
 Reaching Critical Will (2019). ‘Towards a Political Declaration on the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas: States Need to Ensure that Expressed Commitments Translate Into Real Impacts on the Ground.’ https://reachingcriticalwill.org/news/latest-news/14451-towards-a-political-declaration-on-the-use-of-explosive-weapons-in-populated-areas-states-need-to-ensure-that-expressed-commitments-translate-into-real-impacts-on-the-ground.
 Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will (2020). ‘Impacts, Not Intentionality: The Imperative of Focusing on the Effects of Explosive Weapons in a Political Declaration’. https://reachingcriticalwill.org/news/latest-news/14658-impacts-not-intentionality-the-imperative-of-focusing-on-the-effects-of-explosive-weapons-in-a-political-declaration.
 Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will (2021). ‘Report on the March 2021 Consultations on a Political declaration on the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas’. https://reachingcriticalwill.org/news/latest-news/15213-report-on-the-march-2021-consultations-on-a-political-declaration-on-the-use-of-explosive-weapons-in-populated-areas.