France has acknowledged the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) and is involved in the process to develop a political declaration.
During the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in May 2017, France spoke about the use of EWIPA in contexts like Libya, Mali, and the Levant. In the statement, France insisted that their “very strict rules of engagement make possible the prevention of humanitarian consequences of our operations [using EWIPA], in accordance with international humanitarian law.”
At the UN Security Council Open Debate War in Cities: Protection of Civilians in Urban Settings on 25 January 2022, the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, of which France 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.
As a member of the European Union (EU), France 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 international humanitarian law (IHL). 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.
France aligned with the World Humanitarian Summit Core Commitments to ‘Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity’ 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.”
France has also been an active participant in the process toward a political declaration on the use of EWIPA. In the 2019 consultations for a political decision, France 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. France also argued that the declaration should not try to focus on categories of weapons independent of the way in which they are employed. Rather it should try to distinguish between what France referred to as legal employments of weapons and those that are indiscriminate.
France reaffirmed many of these positions at the consultations in 2020. France expressed that it is concerned only with the indiscriminate use of explosive weapons, not their indiscriminate effects. France also stated that the political declaration needs to distinguish between lawful and unlawful use of EWIPA and should focus on minimising civilian harm. France also suggested that the political declaration should treat non-state actors as being on equal footing and should condemn use of human shields and any exploitation of presence of civilians and civilian objects.
At the March 2021 consultations for a political declaration, France indicated that it only wanted the declaration to address what it refers to as “indiscriminate use” of explosive weapons and should explicitly distinguish between the lawful and unlawful use of EWIPA, otherwise it would stigmatise explosive weapons generally. France supported the addition of qualifiers in the text to indicate that harm “can” potentially arise from the use of EWIPA.
 France Statement during the May 2017 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed conflict, 2017, https://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/PV.7951
 Ray Acheson, “UN Security Council debates war in cities and the protection of civilians,” Reaching Critical Will of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 28 January 2022, https://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/news/latest-news/16009-un-security-council-debates-war-in-cities-and-the-protection-of-civilians.
 EU Statement during the May 2011 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2011,http://www.peacewomen.org/sites/default/files/eu_poc_11may2011_0.pdf.
 EU Statement during the June 2012 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2012, http://www.peacewomen.org/security-council/security-council-open-debate-protection-civilians-armed-conflict-june-2012
 EU Statement during the August 2013 Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2013, https://undocs.org/en/S/PV.7019
 EU First Committee Statement, 2017, https://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com17/statements/18Oct_EU.pdf
 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.
 Agenda for Humanity Archives. ‘France’. https://agendaforhumanity.org/stakeholders/commitments/168.html.
 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.
 Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations (2019). ‘Protection des populations civiles lors d’opérations en milieu urbain – Consultations informelles’. https://www.dfa.ie/media/dfa/ourrolepolicies/peaceandsecurity/ewipa/France-Written-Submission–18-November-2019.pdf.
 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.
 Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations (2020). ‘Written Submission’. https://www.dfa.ie/media/dfa/ourrolepolicies/peaceandsecurity/ewipa/France-Written-Submission—10-February-2020.pdf.
 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.