New Zealand 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.
New Zealand issued statements on EWIPA at different sessions of the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in February 2013, May 2017, and in May 2019. The statements stressed the grave destruction of EWIPA, including civilian infrastructure, and the catastrophic humanitarian consequences, including displacement.
New Zealand also referred to the EWIPA at UN General Assembly First Committee in 2015, urging to explore ways to minimise harm from the use of EWIPA. New Zealand also issued a statement at the UN General Assembly First Committee Debate on Conventional Weapons in October 2016, welcoming the process for a political declaration on EWIPA. In 2017, New Zealand stressed the “downstream consequences” of the use of EWIPA at the UN General Assembly First Committee. New Zealand reiterated its views at the 2018 UN General Assembly First Committee.
During the 2015 Meeting of High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), New Zealand raised concerns with the humanitarian harm caused by EWIPA. At the Preparatory Committee of the CCW in August of the same year, New Zealand also highlighted the need for states to explore ways forward to minimise this harm.
New Zealand endorsed many joint statements on the topic. It supported the statement by Austria to the World Humanitarian Summit Roundtable on Upholding the Norms that Safeguard Humanity, in May 2016.
New Zealand also aligned with the World Humanitarian Summit Core Commitments to ‘Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity’ in May 2016, including: “Commit 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.”
New Zealand endorsed the joint statement on EWIPA during 73th UN General Assembly First Committee in October 2018. The statement, delivered by Ireland, called attention to the devastating and long-lasting humanitarian impact of the use of EWIPA and urging states to reverse the trend of high levels of civilian harm. New Zealand also endorsed the joint statement on EWIPA during the 74th UN General Assembly First Committee in October 2019. The statement, also delivered by Ireland, 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.
New Zealand participated in the Vienna Conference on the Protection of Civilians in Urban Warfare in 2019, where it discussed mitigation strategies.
At the first round of consultations that took place in Geneva in 2019, New Zealand highlight the following four key points which it considered to be central to an effective political declaration:
- First, the political declaration should focus on addressing the high likelihood of harm to civilians and civilian objects when explosive weapons with wide area effects are used in populated areas. There should be an acknowledgment that this harm includes not only the
direct damage that may be expected to result from an attack using such weapons in a populated area, but also the indirect or reverberating effects that may be expected from such an attack, too.
- Second, the political declaration should focus on compliance with existing obligations under international humanitarian law. We should aim to help frame the application and implementation of these obligations in what is now widely considered to be the “new normal” context for warfare – that is, conflict in urban areas.
- Third, the political declaration should also add value from a policy perspective. In particular, it should provide practical guidance on how to respond to the challenges of protecting civilians and civilian objects during conflict in urban areas.
- Fourth, the Political Declaration should not be an end in itself. Rather, we hope that it will be a launching pad for further engagement and action to address the harm caused by EW.
In the second consultation hosted by Ireland in Geneva in 2020, New Zealand issued a statement suggesting to clearly separate existing international humanitarian law (IHL), on the one hand, from statements about enhancing implementation on the other. It also said that the political declaration should be as clear as possible about what it is adding to ensure IHL can be better implemented with respect to the use of EWIPA. Additionally, it supported the inclusion of an implementation process for the declaration.
Regarding the proposed draft, it made the following comments:
- To include “reverberating effects” on paragraph 1.2;
- Paragraph 1.4 should include a reference to why data collection is so important rather than just stating that it is necessary;
- In paragraph 1.7, it showed discomfort with the reference to “deliberate” violations of IHL in the same context as “erosion for respect” of IHL;
- To clearly distinguish between existing IHL and the new elements of the political declaration, specially in paragraphs 2.1, 2.2, 2.3;
- It showed discomfort with the phrasing of paragraph 2.2, which can be read to endorse, or even encourage, the use of EWIPA to enhance the implementation of IHL.
- In paragraph 3.2, it didn’t consider the use of the word “refrain” to be sufficient, when – as others have indicated – the use of weapons that are inherently indiscriminate is prohibited outright under IHL.
- Paragraph 3.4 does not, in its view, take us any further than existing IHL rules, and there is some concern that it risks confusing, or even lowering, those standards.
- Paragraph 4.7 might include an intention to meet and report back on progress;
- With respect to paragraphs 4.2 and 4.3, it would like to understand better how data would be collected in partnered operations.
In March 2020, New Zealand submitted a written contribution with the following notes:
- It suggested to delete the reference to “humanitarian harm” in the title, as it doesn’t consider “humanitarian” to be an appropriate descriptor of “harms”.
- It said section 1 may benefit from a little more specificity about the current situation to improve the reader’s understanding as to the motivation for this Political Declaration.
- It said paragraph 1.2 would benefit from a description of what indirect/reverberating effects can include (e.g. in a footnote);
- While it supported the reference to the SDGs, it said that paragraphs 1.2 and 1.3 might read better if the order of the effects moved more clearly from the most immediate (i.e. deaths and injuries) outwards in a logical sequence – with the highly negative impact on progress towards achieving the SDGs coming last.
- Regarding paragraph 1.5, it said “We query whether the first sentence of this paragraph (a technical challenge, which can be read to normalise the use of EWIPA) fits with the rest of it (on military policy and practice). This section may be an appropriate place to include an acknowledgment of the key point made during consultations of the importance of understanding the effects of weapons, including
their area effects.”
- Regarding paragraph 2.4, it said it would be useful to understand why these specific references have been chosen, and to discuss whether it might be preferable to refer to the UN (or its agencies and work streams) and resolutions more broadly.
- In paragraph 3.3, it stated that the final clause is unhelpful here since this is often not known until after the weapon is used, and the overall impression conveyed by this language risks undercutting the general humanitarian objective we are pursuing. It believes the “wide area effects” language already covers off the substantive concern.
- It suggested to combine paragraph 3.1 with 3.6 and 3.2 with 3.7.
- Regarding the paragraph 4.1, it said: “We don’t understand the “toolbox” suggestion made in the second sentence, we don’t think this very specific level of detail is consistent with the rest of the text, and we certainly would not wish to limit engagement exclusively to military-to-military interactions nor to convey any
suggestion that ‘next steps’ on the Declaration might not be open to the involvement of, or contributions from, all supporters of the Declaration.”
- In paragraph 4.2, it would like to understand how this would work in the context, for example, of coalition operations.
- In paragraph 4.7 it said it would be useful to elaborate on what the purpose of this cooperation is and what might it entail.
At the consultations in 2021, New Zealand made the following comments:
- It opposed the use of qualifier “can” in the title and throughout the text, including but not limited to 1.2, 1.3, 1.8, where humanitarian impacts are described, as well as the chapeau for Section 3.
- It pointed out that the term EWIPA should be used in the title, as the declaration applies to the use of EWIPA more generally in some instances, for example with respect to data collection and victim assistance.
- It said that 1.4 should change the wording so that it doesn’t read as though only all factors mentioned in 1.3 together impact the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and lead to displacement.
- It called for an expansion of the list of direct effects, and for the re-insertion of destruction of hospitals in 1.2.
- It suggested adding “urgent” before “dissemination” in 3.6.
- It said the phrase “when the effects may be expected to extend beyond a military objective” is unhelpful, highlighting that the inclusion of the phrase “with wide area effects” already covers the substantive concern.
- With respect to 3.4, New Zealand suggested that states should not simply commit to “take into account” the harmful effects of explosive weapons, but rather should make every effort to limit that harm.
- It spoke in favour of inclusive international cooperation that goes beyond military-to-military exchanges and consistently reserves space for civil society actors.
- It spoke about the importance of any and all follow-up processes retaining inclusivity toward and participation of civil society organizations, as Ireland has done throughout the consultations process.
In its written contribution for the event, New Zealand added the following suggestions:
- Para 1.4: it suggested deleting “together” as it could be read as misleading with respect to the various elements in the previous paragraph;
- Para 2.3: it said it wasn’t clear what ‘precautions’ meant. It suggested it could read “all feasible precautions in choice of means and method of attack, as required under IHL”.
- Para 2.4: it suggested that this paragraph may be better to include, or to add, a general reference to relevant UNGA resolutions (without referencing specific ones), in order to
broaden the impact but not render the text time-bound to specific resolutions.
- Part B: it suggested that ‘ensuring’ would a better choice of word than ‘strengthen’, given
that what this is seeking is improving compliance with existing IHL, rather than seeking to
strengthen that body of IHL itself.
- Para 3.1: it suggested including “protection and civilians and civilian objects during armed
conflict in populated areas” to align with rest of the Declaration.
- Para 3.5: it suggested the following text: “Ensure the marking, clearance, and removal or destruction of explosive remnants of war as soon as possible after the end of active hostilities.”
- Para 4.1: It said: “Could this be changed to “to ensure respect for and protection of”? ‘Enhance’ is vague in terms of how and what standard it refers to.”
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