ALERT – European Inter-parliamentarian Conference on EWIPA: The time is NOW for parliamentarians to act! | May 27, 2021
On the 27th of May, parliamentarians from 5 different countries participated in the European Inter-parliamentarian Conference on the future political declaration to protect civilians from the use of Explosive Weapons in populated areas (EWIPA). This important conference was organized by Humanity & Inclusion in cooperation with French and German parliamentarians and gathered 39 parliamentarians from […]
On the 27th of May, parliamentarians from 5 different countries participated in the European Inter-parliamentarian Conference on the future political declaration to protect civilians from the use of Explosive Weapons in populated areas (EWIPA).
This important conference was organized by Humanity & Inclusion in cooperation with French and German parliamentarians and gathered 39 parliamentarians from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, United Kingdom. During the conference, a European Inter-parliamentarian Joint Statement was presented to ask European governments to:
support the development of an international political declaration to strengthen the protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and to strengthen assistance to victims of such practices.”
At the end of the conference, already 174 members of parliaments from 4 countries (France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg) have signed the statement that will remain open for further signatures. Read the Joint Inter-parliamentarian statement in English, in French and in German.
With the final round of negotiations held in autumn, the process towards a political declaration will get finalized in the months to come. As the political declaration is to be adopted at the end of this year, the engagement of parliamentarians is of high importance now.
EWIPA – a burning issue
Bombing continues to destroy the lives of thousands of civilians in Syria, Yemen and more recently in Gaza. A study over 10 years, recently published by AOAV demonstrates the devastating effects of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. In 2020, more than 91% of victims of these weapons in urban areas were civilians. This data shows the urgent need for a strong political declaration.
In his report “Protection of civilians in armed conflicts”, the Secretary-General of the United Nations requested States to commit themselves to avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas. This would create a presumption against the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas.
This solution is opposed by some States, like France or the United-Kingdom. HI is calling on reluctant governments to change their position on the wording of the declaration and to make a contribution that will have a concrete impact in the field and ensure the effective protection of civilians.
The role of parliamentarians – On the way towards a political declaration
The European Inter-parliamentarian Conference is an opportunity to raise together the voice in order to pressure and support governments to engage for a strong and meaningful political declaration. Parliamentarians from different countries exchanged about their government’s positions towards the use of explosive weapons and the parliamentarian initiatives.
The French parliamentarian Hubert Julien-Laferrière and the German parliamentarian Katja Keul opened the discussion by referring to the severe short and long-term consequences of explosive weapons. Laferrière laid out that even after the end of conflict, refugees can often not return to their homes because crucial infrastructure is destroyed. Keul pointed to the current situation in Yemen, where the humanitarian consequences worsen the already grave circumstances.
Ambassador Michael Gaffey, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations in Geneva and Laurent Gisel, Head of ICRC’s Arms & Conduct of Hostilities Unit, gave insights on the Perspective of Humanitarian International Law (IHL). Laurent Gisel explained that the policy of avoidance is at the heart of the political declaration on EWIPA. This policy does not aim to replace IHL but should reinforce it and facilitate its understanding.
The future political declaration will be key. Much more needs to be done to effectively protect civilians from the use of EWIPA There’s the need of a shift in policies and practices “ – Laurent Gisel
Ambassador Gaffey, who is chairing the negotiations on the political declaration emphasized the role of civil society and NGOs in this process and made the urgency of the topic clear.
A political declaration should be issued soon to promote actions to protect civilians”- Ambassador Gaffey
During an informative panel, several German, French and Belgian parliamentarians (Dr. Karl-Heinz Brunner, André Vallini, Valérie Thomas, Matthias Höhn and Samuel Cogolati) presented their previous initiatives. The German and French parliamentarians referred to different important activities in both parliaments, i.e. their joint appeal signed by 210 parliamentarians in order to mobilise their governments before the previous round of international negotiations in March 2021. Samuel Cogolatti presented the latest success in Belgium. Recently, Belgium became the first country to pass a resolution in order to protect civilians after the engagement of several parliamentarians.
The speakers highlighted the importance of working across political parties and across nations in order to strengthen their voice. A common ground was the necessity to keep pushing the national governments in order to achieve strong commitments on the international level.