Panama has acknowledged the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) and committed to action against it.
As part of the Human Security Network, Panama endorsed two statements addressing the risk of EWIPA at the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in 2013 and 2014. The statements called for data collection and to refrain from the use of EWIPA.
The Community of Latin American and Caribbean states (CELAC), of which Panama is a member, drew attention to the harm of weapons such as cluster munitions and antipersonnel mines on civilian populations in a statement to the UN General Assembly First Commission in October 2018. The statement emphasised that the use of these weapons is in clear violation with international humanitarian law (IHL) and called on all states to take immediate measures to ameliorate the humanitarian harms which they cause.
Along with 22 other Latin American and Caribbean states, Panama participated in the Santiago Regional Meeting on Protecting Civilians from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas in 2018. The meeting produced the Santiago Communiqué in which the participating states agreed to take further action on the issue, including, but not limited to, the following:
- “Encourage collection of data and information to increase awareness and enhance knowledge about the impact of explosive weapons on civilians in populated areas;
- Avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas;
- Act to enhance compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects, including school and hospitals during armed conflict and to contribute to alleviating humanitarian harm resulting from the effects of explosive weapons in populated areas
- Develop effective measures to prevent attacks in contravention of applicable international law against hospitals and schools and protected persons in relation to them;
- Fully support the process that will lead to the negotiation and adoption of an international political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas;
- Promote bilateral and regional cooperation through sharing experiences, good practices and expertise on reducing the harm caused by explosive weapons to civilians;
- Constructively engage in discussions and initiatives at international level that could effectively provide greater protection to civilians in armed conflicts;
- Foster deeper and further engagement from the Latin American and Caribbean states and facilitate increased involvement as a group of States;
- Continue and strengthen cooperation and partnerships with international organizations and civil society organizations to draw upon their relevant expertise and support;
- Channel contributions to the draft international political declaration on the matter, as well as engage in advocacy, at national, regional and international levels.”
Panama endorsed the joint statement on EWIPA during the 74th UN General Assembly First Committee in October 2019. The statement, 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.
Panama also participated at the Conference on the Protection of Civilians in Urban Warfare in October 2019 in Vienna and in the first consultation regarding a political declaration on the use of EWIPA in Geneva in 2019. At that event, it submitted a written contribution suggesting that the objectives of the declaration should be: “(i) Recognize that parties to armed conflict cannot fight in populated areas in the same way as they would on open battlefields; (ii) Address the humanitarian and human rights consequences resulting from the use of explosive weapons in areas populated (cities, towns and refugee camps); (ii) Promote political and operational leadership that reduce the suffering and damage caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and improve the protection of civilians in armed conflicts.” It also suggested that the following elements be considered for the political declaration:
- Reaffirm the norms and principles of international law;
- Recognition of humanitarian and human rights consequences;
- Reference on the type of weapons;
- Actors concerned;
- Commitments to provide greater protection to civilians;
- Access to humanitarian aid;
- Assistance to victims and survivors;
- Environmental protection;
- Collect data and exchange information;
- International assistance and cooperation;
- Accountability: Tracking mechanism.
Panama participated in the second round of consultations in Geneva in 2020, where it raised the following points:
- It suggested there may be a need for definition of EWs and/or other key terms.
- It noted the draft refers to populated areas (PA) but also to “urban context” and urged sticking with PA.
- Panama urged states and organisations to provide international cooperation and assistance for implementing the political declaration commitments.
- It said the political declaration needs to clearly distinguish between existing legal obligations and new policy commitments.
- Panama also said the political declaration should contain a clear commitment to avoid the use of EW with wide area effects in populated areas.
- It called for putting an end to the use of EWIPA.
- It urged Section 1 (some recommended 1.2 or 1.1) to reflect the reverberating effects of the use of EWIPA.
- Panama suggested reflecting socioeconomic consequences of EWIPA use.
- Panama urged the political declaration recognise the environmental impacts of the use of EWIPA.
- Panama said data collection should include disabilities and should be clarified if it is result of use of EWs.
- Panama said victims’ assistance should be strengthened, drawing on the Mine Ban Treaty, Convention on Cluster Munitions, and other relevant instruments.
- It also said the follow-up mechanism should include periodic meetings and could follow the model of the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development or Safe Schools Declaration.
In its written contribution to the event, Panama added that it supports the call for the adoption of an avoidance policy made jointly by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Secretary General, and for this reason, it would like to see ICRC’s proposal reflected in paragraph 3.4. It also made several suggestions in the text, including a more complete description of the impact on civilians in paragraph 1.2, it split the original paragraph 1.4 in two in order to clarify which data would have to be disaggregated (and specifically reinforce the need to include data related to disability), it also split paragraph 1.6 to include factors such as race, age, ethnicity and economic status in further research about the impact of the use of EWIPA. In addition, it added a new paragraph in section 2 and rewrote paragraphs 3.3, 3.5, 3.8, 4.3, 4.6 and 4.7.
Throughout 2020, it submitted a new document with written comments. It reinforced the suggestions previously made, and included other, such as:
- A new text for paragraph 1.3, and the creation of para 1.3 (bis).
- A new text for paragraph 1.5, and the creation of para 1.5 (bis).
- A new text for paragraph 1.7, and the creation of para 1.7 (bis).
- A new text for paragraph 2.4, and the creation of para 2.4 (bis).
- The creation of a paragraph 3.0 (before 3.1).
- The exclusion of 3.3 and a new writing for 3.4.
- The exclusion of 3.6 and the creation of para 3.5 (bis).
- New writing for 4.4 and the creation of 4.4(bis) and 4.4(ter).
In the round of consultations that took place in 2021, Panama raised the following elements:
- 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 agreed that WAE should be deleted in 2.2.
- Panama called for the re-insertion of destruction of hospitals in 1.2.
- It said that displacement should be recognised as stand-alone point.
- It welcomed the inclusion of the environment in 1.3.and suggested including mentions of environmental harm in Section 3.
- It echoed Mexico and Chile’s suggestion to strengthen Section 2, in particular by starting 2.1 by “reaffirming” states’ obligations under existing law.
- It objected to the deletion of international human rights law (IHRL) from 2.1, as it argued that it is a well-established principle that IHRL continues to apply in armed conflict, complementarily with international humanitarian law (IHL), as confirmed by international jurisprudence on the topic.
- It echoed Sweden’s suggestion to amend 2.3 to read “including in populated areas,” to avoid the impression that the obligations only apply in populated areas.
- It supported the re-addition of paragraph 4.5 and move it to Section 2, as it refers to a legal obligation established under IHL.
- It echoed Chile and Mexico’s suggestion for a core commitment to avoid the use of EWIPA with wide area effects, as this would neither stigmatise explosive weapons nor create new obligations, because it is not a prohibition, but rather a regulation.
- It argued that Section 3, and especially 3.3, should start with a strong commitment based on a presumption of non-use of EWIPA, in line with prior ICRC and Secretary General comments.
- Regarding the reference to gender in 1.8, it argued that “potential” should be deleted as the use of EW with WAE has documented gendered impacts. It also welcomed gender references and called for a separate para on the gender dimension of EWIPA.
- Regarding data collection, it emphasised the importance of disaggregated data collection by sex, ability and age, type of weapon, location, and other factors. It also echoed Palestine suggestion that the widest possible sharing of data should be encouraged, so “where appropriate” in Section 1 and “where possible and appropriate” in Section 4 should be removed.
- Regarding victim assistance, Panama echoed Uruguay’s suggestion that “make every effort to assist” should be replaced with “ensure assistance is provided”, as states should do the utmost to ensure that assistance is provided.
- It also echoed Mines Action Canada’s suggestion to add the importance of risk education to the protection of civilians in 3.5.
- It echoed the statement by Project Ploughshares + Seguridad Humana en Latinoamérica y el Caribe about the importance of an implementation process that has high standards of inclusivity, transparency, and regularity, and suggested that “relevant” be removed before “stakeholders” in section 4.
- It highlighted the Secretary General’s reports on the protection of civilians, noting that they have played an important role in raising awareness around this issue and documenting harm. In addition, it recommended highlighting regional and similar efforts to address this issue, including the Maputo and Santiago communiqués, the 2019 Vienna Conference on Protecting Civilians, and recent EWIPA-focused seminars hosted by Germany.
- Along with Chile, Mexico and Palestine, Panama suggested greater specificity regarding the follow-up process and its purpose, which should be to review the humanitarian consequences of the use of EW and assess the operationalisation and universalisation of the declaration—not to simply review compliance with IHL.
In its written contribution for the event, Panama stated that it supported the following proposals during the consultation:
- In section 1:
- “Uruguay suggestion on paragraph 1.2 to add vulnerable groups.
- UNODA+OCHA+UNICEF addition in paragraph 1.7 related to the importance of civilian casualty tracking mechanisms, and in paragraph 1.8 to refer to the joint appeal by the United Nations Secretary-General and the President of the ICRC.
- Proposals of the Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS) to include “environment” in paragraphs 1.6 and 1.8.”
- In section 2:
- “Chile+Mexico suggestion to include reference of the Maputo and Santiago Communiqués.
- Uruguay’s proposed paragraph on Safe School Declaration.
- New paragraph 2.4bis proposed by UNODA+OCHA+UNICEF.
- Proposals of the Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS) to include “environment” in paragraph 2.2 and chapeau of part B.”
- In section 3:
- “Proposals of the Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS) to include “environment” in paragraphs 3.2 and 3.4.
- The inclusion of para 3.0: “Ensure that our armed forces adopt and implement policies and practices to mitigate civilian harm by avoiding the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas” and the modification of para 3.3.
- The inclusion of para 3.5 (bis): “Maintain the highest possible standards on the exports of conventional weapons and ensure full compliance with the provisions of existing international and regional instruments on the risk assessments and other measures to prevent and address diversion of arms.”
- In section 4:
- “Finland suggestion to take into account all vulnerable groups in the victim assistance provision.
- New paragraphs (4.2bis and 4.3ter) proposed by Switzerland.
- ICRC suggestions on paragraphs 4.1, 4.3 and 4.5.
- INEW’s proposal in paragraph 4.2 on casualty recording standards and on the targeted areas, quantity, type and nature of the EW used and location.
- Proposals of the Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS) to include “environment” in paragraphs 4.2, 4.3, 4.5 and 4.6, as well as the new paragraph on assessment and environmentally sound management of conflict debris.”
 Human Security Network (2013). ‘Statement to the August UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict’. http://www.peacewomen.org/sites/default/files/chile_poc_august_2013_debate__0.pdf.
 Human Security Network (2014). ‘Statement to the February UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict’. http://www.peacewomen.org/sites/default/files/statement_-_slovenia__human_security_network__0.pdf.
 CELAC (2018). ‘UNGA73 First Committee Statement’. https://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com18/statements/10Oct_CELAC.pdf.
 INEW (2018). ‘Santiago Communiqué’. https://www.inew.org/communique-from-regional-meeting-on-protecting-civilians-from-the-use-of-explosive-weapons-in-populated-areas-santiago-chile/.
 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 Debate on Conventional Weapons: Joint Statement on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas Delivered by H.E. Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations, 2019, https://article36.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/UNGA74-joint-statement-on-explosive-weapons-in-populated-areas.pdf.
 INEW (2019). ‘Vienna Conference Marks Turning Point as States Support Negotiation of an International Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons’. https://www.inew.org/vienna-conference-marks-turning-point-as-states-support-negotiation-of-an-international-political-declaration-on-explosive-weapons/.
 Permanent Mission of Panama to the United Nations (2019). ‘Written contribution’. https://www.dfa.ie/media/dfa/ourrolepolicies/peaceandsecurity/ewipa/Panama-Written-Submission—18-Novmeber-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 Panama to the United Nations (2020). ‘Written Contribution’. https://www.dfa.ie/media/dfa/ourrolepolicies/peaceandsecurity/ewipa/Panama-Written-Paper-Submission—10-February-2020.pdf.
 Ray Acheson, “Report on the March 2021 consultations on a political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas”, Editorial: Stigmatising and stopping explosive violence for the protection of civilians, March 2021, 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.
 Panama’s written contribution. March 2021. Available at : https://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/ewipa/declaration/documents/Panama-March2021.pdf