UN Security Council debates war in cities and the protection of civilians

Ray Acheson, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
28 January 2022

On 25 January 2022, the UN Security Council (UNSC) held an open debate on “war in cities—protection of civilians in urban settings.” As the current president of the UNSC, the Norwegian delegation chose this topic to engage with the findings of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that more than 50 million people are currently affected by conflict in urban areas, and with the UN Secretary-General (UNSG)’s most recent report on the protection of civilians, which highlights that civilians make up the vast majority of casualties when conflicts are waged in populated areas. Action on Armed Violence has consistently reported that when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, more than 90 per cent of those killed or injured are civilian. “Harm to civilians is often entirely foreseeable,” noted UNSG António Guterres in his remarks to the open debate, “but parties to conflict do not take measures to avoid and minimise it.” In this context, “The frightening human cost of waging war in cities is not inevitable,” he emphasised. “It is a choice.”

It is a choice made daily by states and non-state armed groups engaged in conflict—and by the states that arm them. While rhetorical commitment remains high to international humanitarian law (IHL)—the laws of war that among other things prohibit targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure during armed conflict—its implementation is lagging far behind. Violations of IHL are rampant by both state and non-state armed groups, particularly during urban warfare, where civilians bear the brunt of what Austria described as the “gruesome” impacts of armed conflict.

As Jonas Gahr Støre, prime minister of Norway, noted in his opening remarks to the debate, “Armed conflicts in urban areas have devastating consequences for civilians, who account for the vast majority of casualties. Many civilians, especially children and vulnerable people, have nowhere to go—but they can’t stay where they are either.” Radhya Al-Mutawakel of the Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights, who briefed the UNSC as a civil society representative living in conflict, described the air and ground attacks with explosive weapons, live ammunition, and mines that have affected the daily lives of civilians in Yemen.

State representatives also echoed these experiences. Gabon explained that since cities depend on a complex network of services and structures, damaging one thing can trigger a domino effect that creates even more suffering. When supply networks for water and electricity are destroyed, for example, this has consequences for public health, leading to loss of human life that are graver than initial direct impact.

Some participants highlighted the gendered impact of war in cities, noting that women and girls are at higher risk of being exposed to sexual- and gender-based violence in conflict and when on the move due to displacement. This is also true of LGBTQ+ people, though this was not noted during the debate. There are also other gender-, age-, and ability-differentiated impacts of armed conflict in cities; for example, those who are elderly or have disabilities are often disproportionately impacted by lack of access to health care and challenges to mobility. Children are often recruited as soldiers; men are often treated as combatants rather than civilians purely on the basis of being men. All these factors of war are compounded when the city becomes a battlefield.

New technologies of violence are only making things worse. Some governments claim that “precision” weapons enable warfighting in cities with reduced “collateral damage”—for example, the Philippines asserted that advanced guidance systems are an effective tool to respond to the challenges of urban warfare and should help minimise if not avoid loss of civilian lives. The facts on the ground do not hold up this theory, however. From drone strikes to “smart bombs” and guided missiles, the devastation wrought when used in populated areas remains overwhelming.

Liechtenstein warned that even the most prepared actor can’t “technologize away” the risk that armed conflict in urban areas poses to civilians, while Austria pointed out that new lethal weapons and technology can create greater havoc and disruption for civilian lives. Liechtenstein and Mexico, among others, also highlighted the devastating impacts of cyber-attacks on civilian infrastructure. Slovakia said states must adapt mechanisms for the protection of civilians to new realities, especially regarding the development of new technologies and their deployment in armed conflict.

Most importantly, as a few delegations highlighted during the open debate, it is vital to not normalise war in cities. “Cities are for civilians,” said Gabon. “They must not become the battlefields of the future.” Brazil likewise warned against normalising the current situation, where civilians account for most deaths in armed conflicts and are very often deliberately targeted. Despite international consensus on the need to mitigate suffering, Jordan pointed out, the humanitarian impacts of armed conflict are met with complacency and indifference, as if the right to life has no value. Parties to these conflicts try to wriggle out of their commitments to protect civilians by refusing to acknowledge the conflicts are armed conflicts, describing them instead as internal clashes or a legitimate fight against “terrorism,” as if it’s an excuse to target and collectively punish civilians, said Jordan.

This “new normal” is dragging us back in time. Canada, India, Kenya, Norway, Turkey, and others drew connections with today’s urban conflicts to the destruction of cities during World War Two (WWII). “We all carry in our minds eye the searing images of destruction of cities that forged the UN into being,” said Kenya. In addition to the bombardment of cities with conventional weapons, Kenya highlighted the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that vaporised civilians to send a terrifying signal to the government of Japan. “The attacks on cities during WWII were deliberate,” Kenya pointed out, “meant to break will of states by breaking lives of civilians.”

Today, we are in another period of rising military spending and geopolitical struggle, including amongst members of the UNSC, Kenya noted. Their confrontations frequently lead to sparking or worsening conflicts in many parts of world. Without UNSC reform and other measures for true global peace and security, Kenya argued, we risk another world war.

The following report outlines key highlights from the open debate, as well as concrete recommendations for action to enhance the protection of civilians from war in cities.

International humanitarian law (IHL) and protection of civilians (POC)

Nearly all participants in the open debate highlighted the importance of IHL for protecting civilians in armed conflict. Many also noted that IHL challenges arise when fighting war in cities, given the inevitable proximity of civilians to the “battlefield,” but said this is not an excuse for non-compliance. As the United Kingdom (UK) noted, compliance with IHL “is not an aspiration, it is an essential legal and moral obligation.”

Disturbingly, some delegations highlighted their respect for IHL and called for full compliance with these rules and principles even while their countries are violating IHL or facilitating its violation by others. The UK, which is currently selling weapons to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen, said that “civilians find themselves victims of violations of IHL”—which obscures the actions of perpetrators and suggests it is civilians’ fault for living in populated areas during conflict.

This gap between rhetorical respect for IHL and its actual implementation is why the ICRC emphasised that good faith interpretation and implementation of IHL rules and principles is imperative. In this challenging context, several participants made recommendations regarding IHL.


  • The ICRC, Brazil, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Mexico, and Norway called on all parties to conflict to improve their compliance with IHL. The European Union (EU), the Nordic Countries, Argentina, Belgium, Germany, the Holy See, Iran, Ireland, Morocco, and Poland said IHL must be respected by all parties to all conflicts. China said states should ensure compliance with IHL. France and the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (GoF)[1] called for compliance with IHL and international human rights law (IHRL). The UNSG urged states to utilise influence over their partners and allies to insist on full compliance with IHL.
  • Jordan called on states to pressure parties to conflict to commit to not target civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to declare safe zones.
  • Slovakia said the international community should seize every opportunity to call on all parties to armed conflict to avoid fighting in urban settings.
  • The United States (US) urged states to adopt and enforce national policies to support effective implementation of IHL.
  • The UNSG urged states to develop and implement national policies for the protection of civilians.
  • The UNSG urged states to train their armed forces in IHL and the standards required for fighting in urban areas. Brazil said specific training for urban settings is necessary while the GoF said military doctrine should provide for the development of military competence for the protection of civilians. Slovenia called for training for military personnel, police, and peacekeepers. Argentina also highlighted the importance of training.
  • Norway argued, “effective protection of civilians and civilian objects must be made a strategic priority in the planning and conduct of military operations in urban areas,” and military personnel must be made aware of the rights and obligations under IHL. “Member states must develop, implement and maintain policy and operational procedures that take this into account.” Albania, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, and Portugal made similar remarks.
  • Ghana called for the prioritisation of the POC agenda in planning and conducting military operations. It suggested the UNSC encourage national authorities undertake initiatives for re-education and retraining combatants on the changing landscape of war and calibration of acceptable tactics.
  • The UK said states should provide such specialist training to the armed forces of other countries.
  • The UK said non-state armed groups must also understand their obligations under IHL. Albania and the GoF said all states should support engagement with non-state armed groups, while the GoF and Liechtenstein said engagement with such groups must not be criminalised.
  • The ICRC called for better protections for health, education, sanitation, and other critical infrastructure and systems. Many delegations, including the ICRC, the GoF, Austria, Belgium, Ecuador, Germany, the Holy See, Japan, the United States, and others, called for the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2573, which recognises the importance of protecting critical infrastructure.
  • Belgium, Luxembourg, and Mexico called on all states to support the Safe Schools Declaration, to protect education from attack and prevent schools from being used by militaries. Malta said synergies should be explored with this declaration. The EU called on the international community to prevent the military occupation of schools and the Nordic Countries called for protection of education through the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2601.
  • The EU called on the UNSC to recognise the differential impact of urban warfare on women and girls.

Explosive violence

Most participants in the open debate expressed specific concern about the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA). The UNSG warned that the use of EWIPA carries a high risk of indiscriminate impact, noting that in addition to direct deaths and injuries from explosive violence, many victims face lifelong disabilities and grave psychological trauma; cities suffer from major infrastructure damage; healthcare is disrupted; schools are destroyed; people are left without access to education, medicine, or safe water. From Afghanistan to Yemen, explosive violence forces millions of people from their homes and explosive remnants of war makes it difficult for them to return, contaminating land and water.

To this end, Radhya Al-Mutawakel highlighted the violations of IHL and IHRL by those engaged in the armed conflict in Yemen, particularly the Saudi-led coalition that has been bombarding populated areas since 2015. The use of EWIPA, she said, has resulted in many deaths and injuries; has destroyed homes, schools, hospitals, factories, cultural sites, and more. “Poor villages that never knew any of the modern technology … were targeted by the latest bombs and projectiles dropped by the latest aircraft manufactured in the richest and most urbanized countries.”

Albania warned that when cities become theatres of war, streets become deathbeds. For the first time, it acknowledged the harm caused by the use of EWIPA, which it said always leads to mass civilian casualties, destruction of critical infrastructure, and displacement. India, also for the first time, acknowledged that the use of EWIPA exposes civilians to a high risk of indiscriminate effects. Ecuador and Italy reiterated their condemnation of the use of EWIPA and Austria, Poland, and South Africa highlighted their ongoing concerns with the impacts of the use of EWIPA. The EU expressed concern with the indiscriminate use of EWIPA, including near hospitals, schools, and universities.

While acknowledging that the use of EWIPA is devastating, some states that have recently or are currently waging war in cities refused to be accountable for their actions, focusing instead on the violence of other states or non-state armed groups. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) “strongly rejected” the briefing by Radhya Al-Mutawakel, arguing that the Saudi-led coalition currently bombarding Yemen, of which it is apart, fully respects IHL. The UAE argued the problem is that some non-state armed groups deliberately choose cities as their primary battleground and deliberately target civilians in attacks. The delegation of Yemen made similar remarks, flagging Houthi violence as the “real problem”.

The US, itself a major purveyor of explosive violence globally, noted that explosive weapons “have made it devastatingly easy to threaten and kill civilians” and said that “armed actors exploit this,” putting schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure in deliberate danger. Russia, which has been bombing cities and towns in Syria, argued that non-state armed groups have used hospitals, schools, and other civilian areas for military purposes, “turning them into legitimate targets for attack.”

Under IHL, civilians and civilian objects must not be subject to attack. But as the UNSG noted, even when explosive weapons are (allegedly) used in compliance with IHL, they can cause devastating impacts for civilians. Gabon noted that IHL, as a body of rules intended to limit the conduct of armed conflict, should be able to restrain means and methods of war that parties to conflict use in urban areas. There are no specific IHL rules for urban areas, it said, and the use of EWIPA is not expressely prohibited, but one can question their legality in light of the main rules of IHL. Indeed, Gabon argued, there is “no doubt that the use of EWIPA can hardly be reconciled with respect for IHL.” Similarly, Mexico noted that although the use of EWIPA isn’t expressly prohibited, because of the density of populations in urban areas it is virtually impossible for these weapons to be used without a high risk of violating the principles of discrimination and proportionality. The Holy See agreed that since distinguishing between combatants and non-combatants in populated areas is difficult, this calls into question whether the use of explosive weapons in such settings is lawful.

This is why in 2019, the government of Ireland initiated a diplomatic process to negotiate a political declaration (PD) on the use of EWIPA. At the open debate, Ireland said it is determined to deliver a meaningful PD that improves the protection of civilians and leads to changes in policy and practice. The UNSG, Austria, Belgium, Gabon, the Holy See, Luxembourg, Malta, and Portugal welcomed the development of the PD. Portugal said the PD is a good example of encouraging best practices based on IHL. The EU thanked Ireland for the transparent and inclusive consultation process. Brazil noted it has endorsed the Santiago Declaration in support of a PD on the use of EWIPA and has actively participated in consultations by Ireland. The US also said it has participated in the work to develop a PD. The UK said it welcomed work on the PD, which “must serve to increase the protection of civilians without jeopardizing ‘legitimate’ military actions.” The GoF took note of the ongoing consultations.

Russia, without explicitly referencing the PD, objected to “attempts to invent endless innovative concepts to fill imaginary lacunae,” which it argued dilutes international norms. It argued that existing treaties and legal framework like IHL are sufficient to protect civilians, including in urban warfare, and that IHL norms have a particular degree of “flexibility” to ensure precautions taken correspond to the context.


  • Radhya Al-Mutawakel urged states to put pressure on warring parties to stop using EWIPA.
  • The UNSG, the ICRC, Albania, Chile, Gabon, Holy See, Malta called on parties to conflict to avoid the use of EWIPA.
  • Luxembourg said it will support a PD in which states commit to refraining from using EWIPA.
  • Mexico said the PD should recognise that the use of EWIPA has unacceptable humanitarian consequences and acknowledge the impact such use has on the physical and mental health of people.
  • Brazil said the PD should establish common standards, promote policies to minimise risk of civilian harm, and facilitate exchange of good practice. It argued the declaration provides a good opportunity to promote compliance with IHL and recognise the rights of victims and affected communities.
  • Norway said the use of weapons designed for the open battlefield, including heavy explosive weapons, “should be minimised in urban areas.”
  • The GoF called on states to enhance the protection of civilians, including from the use of EWIPA.
  • The Nordic Countries called upon all parties to prevent civilian harm resulting from use of EWIPA, especially those with wide area effects.
  • The Holy See said efforts to constrain use of EWIPA should engage all parties, including non-state actors operating in conflict settings.
  • Belgium called for additional measures against the use of EWIPA such as specific policies, exchange of best practices, and military training.

Arms sales

The UNSG highlighted the link between the use of EWIPA and the arms trade, urging states to use reporting and analysis about harm to civilians and infrastructure to “inform a more responsible approach to arms sales.” The ICRC pointed out that parties to armed conflict rarely fight alone; they receive support from others. It urged states to act more decisively to improve their own actions and the actions of others with whom they are allies and partners. Radhya Al-Mutawakel likewise argued that arms exporting countries have responsibility on their shoulders and must not turn a blind eye the harm being done to civilians with their weapons.


  • The UNSG said states should use reporting and analysis about harm to civilians and infrastructure to “inform a more responsible approach to arms sales.”
  • The ICRC urged arms exporting states to make the transfer of explosive weapons conditional on recipients putting in place limits on their use in populated areas.
  • Radhya Al-Mutawakel called on arms exporters to cease all arms sales to countries that have a track record of violating IHL and human rights.

Development, peace, and security

Several participants highlighted the connections between the devastation wrought by urban warfare and the costs to socioeconomic development. The UNSG said that use of EWIPA undermines the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while Poland pointed out that the corrosive impact of violence on the SDGs puts millions of people at risk of being left behind, especially during the pandemic.

Norway noted that as essential civilian infrastructure is destroyed, development gains are reversed and poverty, social division, and gender inequality are fueled. The effects on children are particularly acute, with damage to schools and homes, separation of families, and psychological trauma persisting for generations, damaging “prospects for conflict resolution, peace and reconciliation, and sustainable development.” Luxembourg likewise noted that disruption to education from urban warfare means that many children enter the workforce, which reinforces exploitation and cycles of poverty.

Ecuador highlighted that the New Urban Agenda adopted at UN Conference on Sustainable Urban Development in 2016 recognises the humanitarian impact of war on urban environments, the need for support for provision of urban services that are resilient during armed conflicts, and the need to reaffirm full respect for IHL. In the context of the open debate, Ecuador argued that war and armed violence are an obstacle for implementation of the New Urban Agenda and the SDGs, and that protection of human beings and peace is vital for the work of the UNSC.

A few delegations also pointed out, as the UAE did, that preventing conflict altogether is the best way to protect civilians. China likewise called for a peaceful settlement of disputes, noting that a ceasefire is the first step towards a political solution of armed conflicts and highlighting the UNSG’s urgent ceasefire appeal from March 2020. Slovenia and Indonesia reaffirmed their support for the UNSG’s ceasefire appeal.


  • The UAE said developing and supporting ways to allow children to continue education even in midst of conflict is essential to development, peace, and security.
  • China called for a holistic approach to peace through development and the elimination of poverty.
  • Albania urged peacebuilding efforts to take into account long-term effects of urban warfare.
  • The GoF said that comprehensive approaches from humanitarian and development actors are important to address protracted armed conflict in urban areas.
  • France said protection of civilians must be at the core of peacekeeping operations. Egypt, Guatemala, and Philippines also said peacekeeping operations play an important role in the protection of civilians.
  • India said rehabilitation should be the highest priority in post-conflict settings and that donor countries and UN agencies must provide capacity-building to this end.
  • Egypt said protecting civilian lives includes ending crises and ensuring they don’t recur, which can only happen by tackling root causes of conflict, achieving the SDGs, increasing employment, and more.
  • Morocco called for a preventative approach through strengthening capabilities of countries to protect human rights and cultural heritage, and putting in place early warning mechanisms to avoid the transformation of conflicts into open urban warfare.
  • Albania said the UNSC “must stand united” to take all measures to prevent and end armed conflicts. Iran called on states to fulfill their obligations to prevent conflicts and resolve them through peaceful means.
  • Canada called on all states to respect the UN Charter and avoid aggression. Indonesia also called on all states to strengthen their commitment to UN Charter and ensure the non-use of force and peaceful settlement of disputes.
  • Portugal called for “networked multilateralism” through the promotion of peace and security, development, and humanitarian action. The EU and Slovakia highlighted the importance of the humanitarian, development, and peace and security nexus.

Accountability and justice

Many participants also highlighted the importance of accountability for violations of IHL in relation to war in cities. Radhya Al-Mutawakel noted that the attacks against civilians and targeting of civilian objects in Yemen have been met with impunity. The same is true of most ongoing conflicts—and as Ireland noted, “without accountability, we’re condemned to repeat our mistakes.” The Nordic Countries asserted that accountability is necessary to ensure justice for victims and to prevent and deter future violations, and must be part of how the international community works to strengthen compliance with IHL.


  • The UNSG called on member state to investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes, noting that states owe this to victims and loved ones, and arguing that it also serves as a “powerful deterrent” against future violations.
  • Radhya Al-Mutawakel called on the UNSC to refer the Yemen situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC). She called for the establishment of an impartial investigative mechanism through the UN General Assembly to publicly report on the conditions in Yemen and to collect and preserve evidence for future criminal prosecution.
  • Slovakia called for the establishment of investigative mechanisms. Mexico said all violations of IHL must be investigated and prosecuted in national courts or the ICC. Luxembourg highlighted the role of the ICC in ending impunity. Liechtenstein noted that the UNSC has the power to refer situations to the ICC to ensure accountability and deter future crimes and argued that the Rome Statute must also be included in analyses of cyber warfare. Jordan said IHL violators must be held to account through criminal courts. Belgium called for support for international justice and accountability mechanisms.
  • Norway said breaches of IHL of must be reported and sanctioned. France said attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure must not go unpunished and called for sanctions against violators. Germany said those responsible for violations of IHL and IHRL must be held accountable. Armenia said the UN and international community should have the ability and capacity to identify and address situations of gross violations of IHL and IHRL.
  • The UK said those responsible for breaches of international law must be held to account. Albania also said states must ensure accountability and refuse impunity.
  • Ireland made similar remarks, noting that countering impunity is essential to preventing future violations, while Liechtenstein said the UNSC should better acknowledge preventative dimension of POC agenda, including accountability for those that violate IHL, a responsibility that it has been unable to live up to in recent years.
  • Canada said all UN members must challenge the UNSC when it is blocked by a veto in the face of a state or non-state armed group flouting IHL, in order to find alternative avenues to address violations of UN Charter and prevent armed conflict and aggression.
  • Iran said it is the responsibility of the UNSC to compel violators of IHL to end flagrant violations and hold them accountable.
  • The EU called on the international community to condemn violations of IHL.
  • Ghana called for a strong accountability framework that places POC at the heart of national and international justice systems. It also said there should be zero tolerance of impunity for non-state armed groups.
  • The United States said non-state actors must be held accountable for violations of IHL and that states must hold themselves accountable by conducting investigations and acknowledging harm when it happens.
  • China called for accountability and redress for justice.
  • The Holy See called for an end to the culture of impunity.
  • Poland said those who attack humanitarian and medical workers must be brought to justice.

Humanitarian action

Most participants also centred humanitarian and health care assistance within the POC agenda, warning that the unimpeded delivery of such aid is a legal and moral obligation of parties in conflict. Many participants expressed concern with attacks on humanitarian workers. Several delegates also noted that the nature of challenges posed by urban conflict requires different strategies and practices for humanitarian action, with Gabon urging a “paradigm shift” in rethinking the modalities of humanitarian response. It pointed out that a holistic response is necessary for war in cities, noting that the interdependence of networked services, the mixing of civilians and combatants, and the protracted nature of urban conflict requires long-term, cross-sectoral intervention as well as emergency response.


  • The UNSG encouraged better practices in recording casualties, which can help ensure accountability, recovery, and reconciliation. Brazil called for better documentation of civilian harm, including to assess if predicted casualties corresponds to actual damage. Luxembourg and Slovakia also called for strengthened data collection on civilian harm.
  • Norway urged support for humanitarian and development actors in adapting to the needs and vulnerabilities of the population in urban areas, inclusive engagement with affected communities, and the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women.
  • Ghana likewise called for engagement with local communities to ensure the acceptance of POC norms. Local communities need to be empowered to take required preventative actions and not to shield perpetrators of crimes against civilian populations.
  • Chile similarly said states must protect civilians but also empower them, not just as victims but as agents of their own communities. Indonesia also called for community engagement to protect civilians, which should be inclusive and people oriented.
  • Gabon and South Africa similarly called for more dialogue between humanitarian actors and local populations.
  • The UAE said women and men must be equally included in consultations and decision making in the public and private sectors, noting this is also important for preventing conflict. The GoF likewise said women and girls must have participation and leadership in humanitarian action. Indonesia said women’s empowerment should be at the heart of protection of civilians.
  • Germany noted that impeded access to humanitarian aid has gender-differentiated impacts.
  • The ICRC and Norway said humanitarian work must be able to function, with the Nordic Countries, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Norway calling on all states to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian and health workers and to fulfil their obligation to ensure safe, rapid, and unimpeded access to civilians in need. Morocco said all obstacles to humanitarian aid must be removed.
  • Belgium called on donors for flexible, multiyear funding to ensure systemic support for humanitarian aid.
  • The EU said the international community must guarantee that services are maintained or restored and must create space for humanitarian workers to operate during hostilities.
  • France said states must ensure better protection of humanitarian and medical personnel and infrastructure, noting that attacks against them are in violation of IHL, including in cyber space. India said states must “protect the protectors”.
  • The ICRC said humanitarian work must not be criminalised. Brazil made similar remarks and urged the UNSC to adopt safeguards to ensure sanctions and counterterrorism measures don’t have consequences for legitimate humanitarian action.
  • Morocco said humanitarian action in the POC framework must not be politicised.
  • The ICRC called on all governments to intensify famine prevention in urban conflicts, noting that war in cities creates food insecurity by disrupting supply chains and markets. Austria condemned the use of starvation as a weapon of war.
  • The ICRC urged that more be done to prevent displacement and to care for those displaced. Norway said every effort must be made to prevent displacement, account for the missing, and reunite families.
  • India highlighted the importance of demining for the return of displaced persons. Germany also called for humanitarian mine action, noting that unexploded ordinance and explosive remnants of war not only endanger lives but also impede humanitarian assistance. Japan and the Holy See also highlighted this issue.
  • Norway said parties to conflict, and the international community at large, must ensure that civilians continue to have access to essential services like healthcare, food-systems, education, water, and electricity during and after conflicts. Slovenia said the provision of water should be a priority.
  • Ghana argued that while working for general and complete cessation of urban war, states must also assess and enhance the resiliency of populated areas to cope with wars. This work also needs to be complimented by the retention of support systems to psychologically equip civilians with knowledge, skills, and resources to recover.
  • Gabon said more humanitarian assistance is needed during urban conflicts in relation to “invisible forms” of damage such as the psychosocial effects of non-stop bombing, weeks of siege, or destruction of symbolic sites.
  • Gabon also said that the digital data of civilian populations needs to be protected.
  • The UAE called for support for early recovery and reconstructive efforts to restore critical infrastructure.
  • China urged states to avoid politicising aid, specifically calling on all countries to lift economic blockades and sanctions against Afghanistan.


[1] Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Switzerland.