FEEDBACK – Online consultations on a political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas | March 9, 2021

The online consultation round taking place from 3 to 5 March gathered around 200 participants from more than 60 states, 20 international and civil society organisations for a lively and controversial discussion. After a year of delay due to the pandemic situation, the international negotiations on a political declaration on the use of explosive weapons […]

The online consultation round taking place from 3 to 5 March gathered around 200 participants from more than 60 states, 20 international and civil society organisations for a lively and controversial discussion.

After a year of delay due to the pandemic situation, the international negotiations on a political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) finally continued. The Irish president of the process had put a draft declaration on the table which was the result of many inputs received since the last negotiations in February 2020.

Diverging positions stemming from the discussion on the declaration

Some NATO states like the US, UK and France wanted to weaken the draft arguing like in former discussions that a political declaration should not go beyond International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and that they feared a “stigmatization” of explosive weapons. On the other hand, many of the states, who had started the discussion about a political declaration on EWIPA as a core group years ago, but also other states and organisations, such as the members of INEW, supported a stronger text with some key aspects:

  • The humanitarian harm caused by EWIPA is severe and well-documented, it shall not be relativized as a simple possibility as in the given draft text.
  • Simply reaffirming existing provisions of IHL is not enough, as the present situation has to be improved by concrete rules – including the “avoidance-policy”: to avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas.
  • The implementation process of a political declaration has to be inclusive, and include international and civil society organisations along with diplomats and military experts.
  • The present draft should be strengthened in order to integrate effective victim assistance.

Just before the consultations 210 French and German parliamentarians had sent a letter asking for a strong political declaration to their governments. Read the article on the parliamentarian appeal here.

After this round of consultations and in view of the diverging positions, Ireland’s job to draft a final text remains a challenge. In any case, the president of the conference, the Irish Ambassador Gaffey stated in the end:

A political Declaration has to add something meaningful and has to bring change, as this is the fundamental reason for our common engagement.”

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Alma Taslidžan Al-Osta, Disarmament and Protection of Civilians Advocacy Manager

On the first day of negotiations, Alma Taslidžan Al-Osta, Disarmament and Protection of Civilians Advocacy Manager, argued that the strength of the declaration text has to improve and stated:

Civilian harm through explosive weapons in populated areas is not a mere possibility: it is systematic!”

Messages of affected persons to support a strong political declaration on EWIPA

HI will continue to make sure that the commitment on this issue takes into account the messages of survivors. On the first day of the informal consultations, Mahpekay Sidiqi, a survivor of EWIPA from Afghanistan, told her personal story to the participants and stated

The future declaration needs to aim for the strongest protection of people as possible […] How many stories like mine of human suffering do you need to hear?”

A series of video statements of affected persons, with strong messages concerning the political declaration, were also shared.

Nujeen Mustafa from Syria: “I will never forget the fear of not waking up again, of losing my loved ones”. States must commit to a declaration with strong victim assistance provisions, including psychosocial support.

 

Mohamed & his family left their home in Syria to flee the bombing, forcibly displaced many times inside and outside the country. The dire suffering of civilians like Mohamed should force states to commit to a strong declaration to acknowledge this harm and bring forward effective change.

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