FEEDBACK – Public Hearing on EWIPA at the Belgian Federal Parliament | January 11, 2021

On 6th of January, the National Defense Commission of the Belgian Federal Parliament met to discuss a draft resolution on EWIPA. Key areas of concern addressed during the parliamentarian hearing Three key areas of concern were addressed during the hearing: the adoption of a political declaration with an unequivocal commitment that implies avoiding the use […]

On 6th of January, the National Defense Commission of the Belgian Federal Parliament met to discuss a draft resolution on EWIPA.

Key areas of concern addressed during the parliamentarian hearing

Three key areas of concern were addressed during the hearing:

  • the adoption of a political declaration with an unequivocal commitment that implies avoiding the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas as a matter of policy;
  • the recognition of humanitarian consequences, including the “reverberating effects”;
  • and the importance of guaranteeing victim assistance and principled humanitarian access in contexts affected by EWIPA.

In the lead up to the parliamentarian hearing, HI, Airwars, PAX and PAX Christi have cosigned a letter to Belgian members of parliament with key recommendations on these topics. You can read it here in French, in English and in Flemish.

HI called the Belgian parliamentarians to action

 HI reminded the audience that Belgium’s position does not respond to the joint appeal launched by the UN Secretary General and the ICRC to avoid the use of large impact explosive weapons in populated areas.

Anne Héry et Samuel Cogolati at the parliamentarian hearing.

How can one systematically claim to respect the principles of precaution and proportionality of attack when using artillery or mortar shells in places where children, women and men are concentrated, or when bombing near infrastructures vital for the survival of populations, such as hospitals, schools or even power stations? The devastation in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Ukraine, Libya, more recently in Nagorno Karabakh or in the Tigray region, in Ethiopia, forces us to rethink the methods, tactics and choice of weapons of war used today.», said Anne Héry, Director of Advocacy and Institutional Relations of HI.

If the context & the use of weapons change, it is also important for Belgium to be able to strengthen the application of IHL, which is bound to evolve with the times. 90% of civilian victims today: we parliamentarians are called upon to act”, Samuel Cogolati, Member of Parliament, Green party.

The resolution is therefore a step in the right direction.

As the diplomatic process enters its final phase, Belgian parliamentarians can play a crucial role in pushing the Belgian Federal Government to support the adoption of a strong and ambitious political declaration. They have the opportunity to join an international parliamentary dynamic which has seen, for almost 4 years, hundreds of parliamentarians mobilize on this subject. In Germany’s Bundestag, 60 members of parliament signed a parliamentary appeal on the issue, and the issue was publicly debated in committee. In France, 115 parliamentarians have questioned President Macron, the Ministry of the Armed Forces has been heard by a parliamentarian commission, with the ICRC and HI, and another hearing will take place in two weeks in the Senate.

NGOs reaction to the Parliamentarian Hearing

Airwars, HI, PAX and Pax Christi commend the effort made by the co-authors of this draft resolution and welcome the attention the members of the National Defense Commission paid to this crucial topic. Ireland plans on resuming the diplomatic process this year, and to start by sharing the revised political declaration text in January. While we approach the next round of consultations for a political declaration, we call on the Belgian MPs to adopt the resolution without hesitation and to step forward as a country that strongly promotes the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Read the full NGO statement in reaction to the Parliamentarian hearing here.


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