FEEDBACK – A high-level panel revives the process to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas halted by COVID-19 crisis | September 11, 2020

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The global pandemic has halted the diplomatic negotiations, while it has also exacerbated the human suffering caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. On September 7th 2020, Ireland invited States’ representatives, UN agencies, international organizations and civil society to a webinar on the Protection of Civilians in Urban Warfare. Ireland keeps the […]

The global pandemic has halted the diplomatic negotiations, while it has also exacerbated the human suffering caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. On September 7th 2020, Ireland invited States’ representatives, UN agencies, international organizations and civil society to a webinar on the Protection of Civilians in Urban Warfare.

Ireland keeps the momentum on the diplomatic process aimed at adopting a political declaration and organizes a high-level panel on the issue

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Ms Amina Azimi, an Afghan rocket survivor and disability advocate. ©HI

On September 7th 2020, Ireland organized a webinar on the Protection of Civilians in Urban Warfare: Explosives Weapons in Populated Areas (EWIPA): Issues, Policy and Practice. This high-level panel happened after the postponement of the diplomatic process due to the worldwide pandemic. During this webinar, panelists examined the broader issues surrounding the use, impact and measures that can be taken to address the humanitarian harm that can be caused by EWIPA. Ms Amina Azimi, an Afghan rocket survivor and disability advocate, had the opportunity to speak, bringing her experience on long term rehabilitation and recovery following an EWIPA accident. The high participation to this discussion (around 200 participants, including representatives from 70 States) showed again the relevance and urgency of the issue, especially in time of COVID-19.

This high-level panel discussion welcomed Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN under-Secretary-General and High Representative for disarmament affairs, who highlighted the urgency of the issue while bombing and shelling continue in some countries and the destruction of healthcare systems makes the response to COVID-19 much harder. Gilles Carbonnier, vice president of the ICRC, delivered a strong statement and recalled the position of his organization which is to “avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide area impact in populated areas”. Renata Dwan, Director of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) acknowledged the political declaration as a driver for operational progresses and stressed the importance to also consider reverberating effects caused by bombing and shelling.

I think I have the right to say this: we are sick of seeing wars and deaths of our family members, relatives, neighbors”, Mrs. Amina Azimi

 Different views to address the use of EWIPA through the political declaration

While panelists agreed on the need to adopt a political declaration on EWIPA, the panel was characterized by a broad representation and a wide range of views on what standards should be set by such text. On the one hand, Austria; Chile; UNOCHA; the ICRC; as well as CIVIC and Article 36 -members of the International Network of Explosives Weapons together with Humanity & Inclusion – underlined the humanitarian impact caused by EWIPA, stressing the importance to adopt strongest operational standards limiting the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. In particular, the ICRC called for the inclusion of the “avoidance policy” in the text. Additionally, some States – Germany, Austria, and Chile- international organizations and INGOs stood firmly in favor of victim assistance and the need of disaggregated data of the impact of EWIPA.

On the other hand, some states – the US, the UK but also Germany – insisted on the fact that a better compliance with the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) will be sufficient, without the need to add further operational standards. For them, an effective protection of civilians would go through sharing the best military practices (doctrines, rules of engagement), training armed forces, or implementing new procedures to investigate any IHL violation.

In the lead up of this online event HI has cooperated with Ms. Amina Azimi, Urban Warfare Survivor and Disability rights Advocate with ALSO, to ensure her meaningful participation in the panel.

Today, I would like to ask you what you remember from your 8 years old life”.

This is how Amina started her speech. 8 years old, the age she was when a rocket explosed next to her and injured her leg.

That mortar not only shook my life up, it also destroyed my city. Like in many conflict affected countries today, bombing and shelling destroy people’s lives and their cities. They have a huge impact on livelihood and psyche of civilians”.

On behalf of “common people, the most affected by conflicts”, Amina asked States to find political solutions to save civilians’ lives from bombing and shelling as well as to protect civilian infrastructures.

Next steps of the diplomatic process

Due to the uncertainty caused by the global pandemic, Ireland decided to neither disseminate the new and final draft of the political declaration nor define a timeline of the next steps of the negotiations. Ireland remains committed to have an in-person third round of consultations and would like to continue in this direction.  

While waiting for the next round of negotiations, HI calls on all states to fully consider and protect the needs and the right of affected communities and to ensure civil society as a full partner in the process towards the adoption of a strong political declaration against the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas.

 


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