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Vienna Conference marks turning point as states support negotiation of an international political declaration on explosive weapons

Vienna Conference marks a turning point as states support negotiation of an international political declaration on explosive weapons

133 countries gathered in Vienna for a Conference on the Protection of Civilians in Urban Warfare on 1-2 October 2019 where states discussed the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, the legal context and examples of good military practice.

The meeting ended with widespread support from states for developing an international political declaration to prevent and reduce the harms resulting from bombing and shelling in towns and cities, including civilian deaths and injury, destruction of infrastructure and essential services, psychological trauma, and displacement.

The Vienna Conference is a watershed moment. The International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) has long advocated for recognition of the humanitarian challenges raised by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and has carried out several studies on this subject.

Around 40 states intervened in the final session of the Vienna Conference on “the way forward” to talk about next steps, with widespread support for developing an international political declaration.

In the last couple of years, African states have met in Mozambique and Latin American and Caribbean states met in Chile, with both regional meetings resulting in regional communiqués urging work to begin on agreeing an international commitment on explosive weapons.

Ireland announced that it will convene states in Geneva on 18 November 2019 for open consultations on the text of a new international political declaration, with a view to finalising it in the Spring of 2020.

So far, a group of around 80 countries have voiced support for developing an international political declaration on explosive weapons. States that announced support for a political declaration for the first time include Belgium, France, Lesotho, Nicaragua and the Philippines.

INEW has laid out its view on possible elements of an international political declaration on explosive weapons to raise international standards, help shape the conduct of parties to armed conflict and assist victims and communities harmed by explosive weapons. A political declaration could describe the harm we are committed to preventing, and contain action-oriented commitments for endorsing states to:

  • Develop operational policies and procedures that will stop the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas
  • Share positive practice and policy
  • Provide assistance to victims towards the realisation of their rights, and support affected communities
  • Support and undertake data gathering, including casualty recording, with data on victims disaggregated by age, sex and disability
  • Enable humanitarian and protection measures, and
  • Build a community of practice, including through regular meetings to discuss the issue and progress towards reducing harm.


States who have expressed their support for a political declaration on explosive weapons

  1. Angola
  2. Antigua and Barbuda
  3. Argentina
  4. Austria
  5. Bangladesh
  6. Barbados
  7. Belgium
  8. Belize
  9. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  10. Botswana
  11. Brazil
  12. Bulgaria
  13. Cameroon
  14. Central African Republic
  15. Chile
  16. Colombia
  17. Congo
  18. Costa Rica
  19. Croatia
  20. Cyprus
  21. Czech Republic
  22. Dominican Republic
  23. Ecuador
  24. El Salvador
  25. Ethiopia
  26. Finland
  27. France
  28. Georgia
  29. Germany
  30. Ghana
  31. Guatemala
  32. Guyana
  33. Haiti
  34. Honduras
  35. Iceland
  36. Indonesia
  37. Ireland
  38. Islamic Republic of Iran
  39. Italy
  40. Jamaica
  41. Kenya
  42. Liechtenstein
  43. Liberia
  44. Lesotho
  45. Luxembourg
  46. Madagascar
  47. Malaysia
  48. Mali
  49. Malta
  50. Mexico
  51. Moldova
  52. Monaco
  53. Montenegro
  54. Mozambique
  55. Morocco
  56. New Zealand
  57. Nicaragua
  58. Nigeria
  59. Norway
  60. North Macedonia
  61. Panama
  62. Paraguay
  63. Peru
  64. Philippines
  65. Portugal
  66. Samoa
  67. San Marino
  68. Senegal
  69. Serbia
  70. Slovenia
  71. Somalia
  72. Spain
  73. Sri Lanka
  74. St Kitts and Nevis
  75. St Vincent and the Grenadines
  76. Sweden
  77. Switzerland
  78. Togo
  79. Uganda
  80. Ukraine
  81. Uruguay
  82. Zambia
  83. Zimbabwe

Participating countries at the Vienna Conference (133 states)

Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Canada, Cameroon, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Eswatini, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya,, Lao PDR, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, UAE, UK, USA, Uruguay, Viet Nam, Yemen.

Photo: Rajab, 63, suffered severe injuries in both legs when his house was bombed in Syria, in 2013. © C. Fohlen/ Handicap International.

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