COMING UP – Protection Of Civilians: States must commit to the political declaration on EWIPA | May 26, 2020

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United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres will brief the Security Council on his annual report on the protection of civilians during a virtual open debate on 27 May. In his report, he denounces the practice of bombing populated areas and the disastrous consequences for civilians, and supports the current diplomatic effort to develop a political declaration […]

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres will brief the Security Council on his annual report on the protection of civilians during a virtual open debate on 27 May. In his report, he denounces the practice of bombing populated areas and the disastrous consequences for civilians, and supports the current diplomatic effort to develop a political declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

HI and its partners from the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) are fully engaged in this diplomatic process which started in October 2019 to end bombing in urban areas and urge States to support a strong political declaration to end human suffering caused by explosive weapons.

States have a historic opportunity to make a real difference in protecting civilians from a major cause of humanitarian catastrophe in modern conflict: the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. We are calling to all States to acknowledge the harm caused to civilians by explosive weapons in populated areas and promote strong language for the future political declaration. France and the UK in particular, as permanent members of the Security Council should engage unequivocally to ensure that the opposition to the project conveyed by countries like China or the US does not sabotage the future Political Declaration.” says Anne Héry, Director of Advocacy and Institutional Relations at HI.

Towards a political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

The final draft of a political declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is about to be finalised after 9 months of intense discussions between States and NGOs. Ireland is committed to host an international conference to invite States to endorse it.

In his report, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres (published on May 22) “welcomes” the ongoing efforts of Member States and other relevant actors to develop a political declaration to address the humanitarian impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. “As the discussions continue, States should commit to avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas and develop operational policies against such use”, he adds.

Civilians pay a heavy toll when explosive weapons are used in populated areas

250,000 people were killed and injured from the use of explosive weapons around the world between 2011 and 2019. When explosive weapons are used in populated areas, over 90% of those killed and injured were civilians during that period.

Massive bombardments in populated areas have terrible humanitarian consequences: families torn apart, life-changing injuries, psychological trauma, forced displacement, destruction of essential infrastructure (hospitals, ports, bridges, etc.) and ever worsening poverty. Massive bombardments in Libya, Syria and Yemen has also had long lasting effects on the development of these countries by destroying vital infrastructures and services, and disrupting economy. The contamination caused by explosive remnants of war will impede or make more difficult any efforts for reconstruction.

For example, HI teams working in Jordan and Lebanon are witnessing the suffering and trauma of the Syrian population. Since December 2011, Syria has been devastated by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Syria’s essential infrastructure and economy are destroyed, 80% of Syrians currently live below the poverty line. Main cities like Aleppo, Homs and Raqqa are totally or partially devastated. These locations saw heavy aerial bombardment, leaving roads, housing, schools, health centres, and water and sanitation systems either destroyed or rendered non-functional.

Contamination with explosive remnants of war is also one of the main obstacles preventing the return of refugees and displaced persons. In Syria, 11.5 million people are exposed to the risks posed by explosive remnants of war, according to UNMAS.

Exacerbating effect of bombing on COVID-19 response capacity  

HI fully support United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres calls for a global ceasefire in order to facilitate efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

HI teams see on the ground how bombing in populated areas exacerbates the lack of capacity for war-hit countries to respond to the pandemic. Response to the pandemic requires strong health infrastructures and services, strong channels of information for prevention, the capacity of society to organise itself to implement preventive measures and care in an inclusive and accessible way… Everything that massive bombing in urban areas has been destroying in countries such as Libya, Syria and Yemen…


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