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The use of explosive weapons in populated areas

The use of explosive weapons (e.g. mortars, rockets, artillery shells, aircraft bombs, and improvised explosive devices) in populated areas inevitably leads to the disproportionate death and injury of civilians and destruction to civilian infrastructure. Reaching Critical Will represents WILPF on the steering group of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW). This network of non-governmental organisations calls for immediate action to prevent human suffering from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. We have published several studies on the gendered impacts of EWIPA and the links between the international arms trade and EWIPA, and have worked with WILPF's human rights and MENA programmes to make submissions to human rights bodies and other international mechanisms calling for an end to the bombing of towns and cities.

The use of EWIPA has been discussed at the UN Security Council's Protection of Civilians and its Children and Armed Conflict debates, as well as at the UN General Assembly First Committee, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and other forums. Over 100 states, several multilateral organisations, and consecutive UN Secretary-Generals and other high-level UN officials, have expressed concern about the humanitarian harm caused by the use of EWIPA. Most recently the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN Secretary-General issued a joint appeal calling on conflict parties to avoid using EWIPA.

The government of Austria hosted an international conference on the use of EWIPA in 2015 and is going to host another conference on 1-2 October 2019, focusing on protecting civilians in urban conflict. This conference will aim to foster a common understanding by discussing the various forms of harm caused by the use of EWIPA, the legal context, and  examples of military practices. It will also provide space for an exchange of views on relevant issues regarding the UN Secretary-General’s proposal to develop a political declaration on this issue. RCW will report from this meeting.