FEEDBACK – Towards a political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas | September 23, 2015

© Phillipe Houliat/Handicap International

On 21 and 22 September, Handicap International participated to an international meeting on “Preventing harm from explosive weapons in populated areas” in Vienna. With this event, a process towards a political declaration has been launched. It gathered around 20 States, UN agencies (OCHA, UNODA, UNMAS, UNDP, UNICEF), ICRC, GICHD, and several representatives of civil society, […]

On 21 and 22 September, Handicap International participated to an international meeting on “Preventing harm from explosive weapons in populated areas” in Vienna. With this event, a process towards a political declaration has been launched.

It gathered around 20 States, UN agencies (OCHA, UNODA, UNMAS, UNDP, UNICEF), ICRC, GICHD, and several representatives of civil society, namely Handicap International. The meeting was organized under Chatham House rules so positions cannot be attributed to specific participants.

Handicap International facilitated, for the first time on this topic, the participation of a survivor to the meeting. Our contribution focused on giving the perspective of survivors and victims of explosive weapons and sharing the expertise gained on the field by Handicap International’s teams. Indeed, they are confronted on a daily basis with the consequences of explosive weapons on civilian populations while providing basic emergency assistance, physical rehabilitation and psychological support, as well as risk education and clearance in Gaza, Afghanistan, Iraq, to name a few.

Our teams have documented the impact of explosive weapons in Syria through three recent field based publications:

– an assessment on injuries encountered while working with IDPs inside Syria,

– a case study based on data about weapons related reported incidents in Syria,

– and a factsheet based on the assessment of weapons contamination in the city of Kobani.

These studies show a massive use of explosive weapons by all parties to the Syrian conflict: 80 000 incidents related to conventional weapons and IEDs were reported between December 2012 and March 2015, 80% of these incidents were caused by explosive weapons and 75% of recorded incidents involving explosive weapons occurred in urban areas.

In view of the appalling direct impact and indirect impacts of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, Handicap International strongly supports the interest of developing a political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) to end the suffering and harm caused by this practice. The use of explosive weapons, in addition to the severe injuries caused by the blast, is also impeding the access of those injured and other civilians to needed services, in particular emergency health care. On the long term, the consequences for survivors and their communities are the same than those faced by survivors of other indiscriminate weapons: poverty, loss of means of life, barriers to accede services, discrimination as a person with disability.

Handicap International welcomed the support expressed by States for a political declaration. We called for provisions addressing the situation of those affected by the use of explosive weapons:

  • The political declaration should recognize the rights of the victims, and ensure their access to services;
  • It should be based on the approach chosen in the Convention on Cluster Munitions, namely recognizing as victims those directly killed or injured, but also their families, and affected communities;
  • Specific attention should be given to provide those injured with immediate health services; but also recognizing that most of survivors will need long term medical, social and economic support in order to have a decent chance of participating in society.
  • While it is of extreme importance to address the huge human impact of explosive weapons, we remind that, as stated under the Convention on Cluster Munitions in particular, this should be done without discrimination against victims of other weapons, or those who have suffered injuries or disabilities from other causes.

We will keep you informed on the next steps of the process.

For more information, please read the summary of the side event organised by INEW, here.


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