WILPF closing statement to the fourth consultations on the draft political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

The fourth consultations on a political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) took place in Geneva, from 6–8 April. WILPF delivered the following statement on 8 April 2022.

We thank Ireland for the efforts to drive this process forward and to ensure its transparency and inclusivity. We welcome by the constructive contributions from states, international organisations, and civil society, and we look forward to continuing this work to protect civilians through the process you’ve outlined today.

As anyone can see from reading the news each day, these negotiations are not an academic exercise. Bombing is going on all around us. People are dying, living in fear, being separated from their families, struggling to survive conflict and its aftermath. This is the reality of our world. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

These are political, military, and economic choices made by governments to use explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. To turn cities into battlefields.

Thus, this declaration indeed must be realistic—in that it must commit states to change their behaviour in order to save lives. A “realistic” declaration would honestly acknowledge the harms being caused by the policies and practices of militarily active states. It would account for the direct as well as the reverberating harms from the use of EWIPA, the disruptions to life and well-being caused by destruction resulting from explosive weapon use. It would account for the impediments to human rights, the gendered harms, the harms to people with disabilities, and people who are facing marginalisation and exclusion.

A “realistic” declaration would commit states to change their behaviour—because it is clear that change is imperative. The reality is that current implementation and interpretation of existing is law is insufficient to protect civilians, and so we need to be clearer about what is and is not acceptable. The language in paragraph 3.3 must be clear in its commitment by states to not use explosive weapons in populated areas.

States that are bombing civilians should not have the final word on what is or is not acceptable, feasible, or realistic. It must be the experience of victims and survivors that guides this declaration’s words and its implementation. We hope to be able to support this declaration and promote it amongst our partners and colleagues who are living in conflict. This declaration needs to have meaning for their lives. If the declaration is not sufficiently strong, it will not add value. This is realism.

We also hope to be able to engage in a follow up process to ensure the declaration’s implementation. This cannot just be a piece of paper; its commitments need to be taken seriously and acted upon. States will need to collaborate with international organisations, civil society, and affected communities to translate this declaration into meaningful action.

With this declaration, we can set a common standard and expectation for the protection of civilians. WILPF urges states to make the choice to save lives and prevent suffering.

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