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WILPF Statement to the Human Rights Council on children and armed conflict

September 2012

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom welcomes the annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (A/HRC/21/38), in particular the section on the emerging concerns over use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

However, we note with concern that the links between the proliferation and illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and children and armed conflict were not addressed in this report. The recently-concluded review conference on the UN Programme of Action on small arms called for “improved understanding of the different concerns and needs” of children in this context.

Regarding explosive weapons, Save the Children UK has stated that: “the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has a devastating impact on children. As well as killing and injuring [they are] denying children access to healthcare and education, and ruining their futures.”

In 2012, we have already seen further stark examples of use of explosive weapons. In Syria, a particular cause for concern has been heavy explosive weapons that can have wide area effects, such as multiple launch rockets, high explosive artillery and mortars, as well as car bombs and other IEDs.

Recognition of the distinct problems associated with explosive weapons has grown over recent years.

  • In 2010, the UN Secretary-General’s report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict expressed increasing concern at this issue and urged Member States to support data collection on the humanitarian problem, and to make available information on national policies.
  • In 2011, the UN Secretary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict expressed concern that in Somalia deaths and injuries are increasing from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
  • In 2011, the International Committee of the Red Cross stated that, “due to the significant likelihood of indiscriminate effects and despite the absence of an express legal prohibition for specific types of weapons, the ICRC considers that explosive weapons with wide a wide impact area should be avoided in densely populated areas.”
  • And in the report of the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, it is stated that explosive weapons in populated areas causes severe harm to civilians and is a serious concern for the protection of children in armed conflict.

Therefore, we urge all states to express support for concrete steps that will curb the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and to provide stronger protection to children in the future.

In particular, we call on states to

  • acknowledge the severe impact on children caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas;
  • collect data on the impact of explosive weapons on children; and provide information on national and multilateral policies regarding use of explosive weapons;
  • monitor and report on where explosive weapons cause a pattern of killing and maiming of children, and to establish national action plans to address this; and
  • call for an end to the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas.

Thank you.

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