Ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas
On 21-22 September, Austria and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs will host a meeting in Vienna to highlight the humanitarian impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and to begin discussions on how to address this issue politically.
Explosive weapons use blast and fragmentation to kill and injure people in the area where they detonate, as well as to damage objects, buildings and infrastructure. When used in populated areas they tend to cause high levels of harm to individuals and communities. Destruction of infrastructure vital to the civilian population, including water and sanitation, housing, schools and hospitals, results in a pattern of wider, long term suffering. Victims and survivors of explosive weapons can face long-term challenges of disability, psychological harm, and social and economic exclusion.
WILPF is a member of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), which is calling for an end to the bombing and bombardment in cities, towns, villages, and other populated areas in order to prevent humanitarian harm.
INEW has encouraged states and other actors to raise concerns about the severe harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and to make available relevant data; to strive to end such practices nationally and internationally, including through prohibitions and restrictions on the use of explosive weapons; and to work for the full realisation of the rights of victims and survivors.
So far, international work has occurred through expert level meetings hosted by:
- Chatham House and OCHA, September 2013;
- Norway and OCHA, June 2014; and
- International Committee of the Red Cross, February 2015.
At the United Nations, the UN Secretary-General’s reports on protection of civilians and children and armed conflict debates have highlighted this issue and urged international action. The Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry on Gaza also included critiques of explosive weapon use. A number of UN agencies and INEW partner organisations have issued advocacy and policy briefs on this issue over the last several years and have reported on a variety of meetings.
The next step is to develop an international commitment to end the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. The meeting to be hosted by Austria and OCHA next week will begin this work. In advance of this meeting, INEW has prepared a new briefing book that provides background on the humanitarian problems caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and on the actions that can be taken by governments to address these problems.
WILPF will attend the meeting as a member of INEW to advocate for the strongest possible commitments to end the humanitarian harm caused by bombing and bombardment in populated areas. Reaching Critical Will, which represents WILPF on the INEW Steering Committee, has published research on women and explosive weapons and on the international arms trade and explosive weapons use. We will continue to demand urgent action from states and other actors to end human suffering from the trade and use of weapons in war and beyond.