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United Arab Emirates

  • State
  • Acknowledged harm
  • Committed to action

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has acknowledged the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) and committed to action on the issue. 


In October 2013, the “Friends of Syria” group, that includes the UAE, issued a communiqué calling on Syria to “end the siege of urban areas and the indiscriminate attacks against civilians, in particular through air bombardment and the use of ballistic missiles, cluster bombs and explosive barrels.”[1]

As a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the UAE aligned with the World Humanitarian Summit Core Commitments to ‘Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity’ in May 2016, including 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.”[2]

At the UN Security Council Open Debate War in Cities: Protection of Civilians in Urban Settings on 25 January 2022, the UAE “strongly rejected” the briefing by Radhya Al-Mutawakel of the Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights, who briefed the Council as a civil society representative living in conflict. The UAE representative argued that the Saudi-led coalition currently bombarding Yemen, of which it is apart, fully respects international humanitarian law (IHL). It asserted that the problem is that some non-state armed groups deliberately choose cities as their primary battleground and deliberately target civilians in attacks.[3]

The UAE participated in the Vienna Conference on the Protection of Civilians in Urban Warfare in October 2019.[4]

Political declaration

As a member of the Arab Group, the UAE participated in the round of consultations that took place in 2021.[5] In that occasion, the Arab Group highlighted the following points:

  • It said there is no agreed definition of populated areas.
  • The Arab Group also argued the political declaration overlooks use of human shields.
  • The Arab Group argued existing IHL rules and principles must be applied fully and effectively to protect civilians. 
  • The Arab Group said the aim of this declaration is to strengthen protection of civilians through enhancing existing IHL, not by establishing new rules, concepts, or mechanisms. 
  • The Arab Group argued the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects is already subject to IHL rules of distinction, proportionality, precaution and that the contradiction with these principles, not the weapons themselves, is what makes some attacks unlawful.
  • The Arab Group expressed concern that the declaration would stigmatise explosive weapons use.
  • The Arab Group said any reference to non-state armed groups should be confined to IHL, without prejudice of self-determination and resistance to foreign occupation and aggression.
  • The Arab Group also stressed that “there is no agreed definition of the terms “Populated Areas” and “reverberating effects”, which are unclear and open to conflicting interpretations. The term “critical civilian infrastructure” that appears in paragraph 1.2 similarly lacks clarity. Moreover, it is not clear which are the “other relevant stakeholders”
    mentioned in paragraph 4.1 that are to be engaged in international cooperation and assistance efforts among armed forces. The Group wishes to highlight that explosive remnants of war are already regulated under an existing framework.[6]


[1] Friends of Syria (2013). ‘Final Communique of the London Ministerial Meeting on Syria’. and

[2]  Agenda for Humanity. ‘Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)’.

[3] Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will (2022). ‘UN Security Council Debates War in Cities and the Protection of Civilians’.

[4] INEW (2019). ‘Vienna Conference Marks Turning Point as States Support Negotiation of an International Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons’.

[5]  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’.

[6] The Arab Group (2021). ‘Statement to EWIPA Political Declaration Informal Consultations’. 

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