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INEW Bulletin #16 with key developments, past and upcoming events, research, policy and advocacy news on explosive weapons issues. 

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INEW bulletin #16

September 2015
View from a building destroyed by war in Gaza (© Marc Garlasco)

States to meet in Vienna next week on addressing civilian harm from explosive weapons

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On 21 and 22 September, Austria and UN OCHA have invited interested states, international and civil society organisations to join discussions in Vienna aimed at addressing harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including through a possible political commitment. 

This is an opportunity to focus on the idea of an international commitment to stop the use in populated areas of explosive weapons with wide area effects. Building on existing international law and national policy, the development and endorsement by states of such a commitment would articulate a clearer, common standard of practice, and provide an opportunity to significantly enhance the protection of civilians.

The UN Secretary-General once again identified the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as a key threat to the protection of civilians, in his latest report released in June. He urged states to work on a commitment to “refrain from the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas”. The Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator also recently highlighted that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is the primary cause of civilian deaths and injuries in Syria.

More than forty states have recognised the humanitarian harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, with many calling for action to address this harm. Most recently, a number of countries expressed their concern about this issue at the UN Security Council open debate on children and armed conflict in June.

INEW urges states to take the opportunity of the Vienna meeting to recognise the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and to discuss the elements of a political commitment on this issue. Read INEW's briefing booklet for detailed recommendations


INEW events this summer
New evidence on the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons in populated areas, and the action that states should take towards addressing the grave humanitarian harm caused, were discussed at INEW side events to the Mine Ban Treaty Intersessionals and ECOSOC humanitarian segment in June, and the First Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in September, featuring new work by members of INEW.

In August in Aotearoa New Zealand, at a forum organised by INEW member Peace Movement Aotearoa, Thomas Nash of Article 36 and INEW, Marnie Lloyd of the New Zealand Red Cross and Edwina Hughes of Peace Movement Aotearoa discussed a number of humanitarian and disarmament issues including explosive weapons. Nash published a blog on how New Zealand can support international efforts to prevent harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and also gave an interview to Radio New Zealand featuring this subject.

Events

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Protecting civilians from explosive weapons in populated areas: Vienna international meeting, 21-22 September 2015, Vienna, Austria

Austria and UN OCHA have invited a number of interested states, international and civil society organisations to join discussions on the humanitarian impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and the scope and elements of a possible political commitment to address this issue.

This meeting follows previous expert meetings hosted by Norway in Oslo in 2014, and by Chatham House with OCHA in 2013. Attendance at the meeting is by invitation, and a report of the meeting's outcomes will be produced by Austria.

UN General Assembly First Committee, on Disarmament and International Security, 6 October - 9 November 2015, New York, USA

INEW recommends that during First Committee states should:

  • Recognise that civilian harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is a humanitarian problem that must be addressed.
  • Endorse the UN Secretary-General’s recommendation that the use in densely populated areas of explosive weapons with wide area effects should be avoided.
  • Set out national policies and practices related to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including in response to the Note Verbale sent by the UN Secretary-General to all states, via their Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in New York.
  • Indicate support for the development of an international commitment to reduce harm from the use of explosive weapons, including by stopping the use in populated areas of explosive weapons with wide area effects.

Read INEW's contribution to Reaching Critical Will of WILPF's First Committee Briefing Book.

Please contact us for more information about any events listed.

Policy, research & advocacy

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A commitment to act: INEW briefing booklet calls on states to develop a political commitment on explosive weapons

This new resource provides background on the humanitarian harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and urges states to develop a political commitment to reduce harm to civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. It recommends the elements that such a commitment could contain. Read more

New report by UN Secretary General calls for action against use of explosive weapons in populated areas

In his latest report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, released in June, the UN Secretary-General highlighted once again the civilian suffering caused by the bombing and bombardment of towns and cities. He also urged states to work on a common commitment to “refrain from the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas”. Read more

Human Rights Watch/Harvard International Human Rights Law Clinic set out options for achieving a political commitment on explosive weapons

Arguing that countries should develop and implement a new non-binding agreement to reduce the harm from explosive weapons, this joint report released in June offers options for developing such a commitment, based on an examination of the experience of states and others in developing previous political commitments. Explosive weapons with wide-are effects are highlighted as a particular concern that should be the immediate subject of states’ efforts. Read more

Action on Armed Violence: Casualties from explosive violence increased again in 2014

In their latest annual report on the casualties caused by explosive weapons worldwide, issued in June, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) document the continued scale and intensity of this humanitarian problem, providing further impetus for states to agree on an international commitment to address the bombing and bombardment of towns and cities. AOAV's data was used in the latest UN Secretary-General's report on the protection of civilians. Read more

International Committee of the Red Cross: Devastating effects of explosive weapons for civilians

In June the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) released an animated infographic showing why the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas is particularly devastating to civilians, for the immediate death, injury and destruction caused but also for the longer-term damage to vital infrastructure and displacement that ensues. The ICRC also released a report on its expert meeting on the topic of explosive weapons held in February: 'Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas: Humanitarian, Legal, Technical and Military Aspects'. Read more

UN Commission of Inquiry on Gaza calls for international action on use of explosive weapons in populated areas

Strong recommendations regarding explosive weapons were included in the report of the Commission of Inquiry established by the UN Human Rights Council in relation to the 2014 conflict in Gaza, released in June, which called on the international community “to accelerate and intensify efforts to develop legal and policy standards that would limit the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas with a view to strengthening the protection of civilians during hostilities” worldwide. The report also details the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in urban areas of the Gaza Strip. Read more

Human Rights Watch: Inevitable civilian harm from explosive weapons use in Yemen

In their latest reports documenting the devastation and suffering caused by explosive weapons in Yemen - on coalition airstrikes in Saada and Houthi artillery use in Aden, released in July - Human Rights Watch urged all parties to the conflict not to use explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas, because of the inevitable civilian harm caused. Read more

UN in Afghanistan on impact of explosive weapons on civilians

The latest mid-year report from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on the protection of civilians, released in August, showed that the majority of documented civilian casualties in Afghanistan attributed 'pro-government forces' in 2015 so far were caused by explosive weapons. Read more

Action on Armed Violence: Explosive weapons and their impact on the refugee crisis

In September, AOAV explored the links between civilian suffering from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, particularly in Syria, and the current refugee crisis. Read more

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom: Explosive weapons and the impact on women in Syria

In June, INEW member the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) made a statement to the UN Human Rights Council on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and the distinct impact on women in Syria. It draws attention to the impact on rights to education, employment and freedom of movement, among other aspects. Read more

Reaching Critical Will first committee briefing book 2015: background and recommendations to states on explosive weapons

Reaching Critical Will of WILPF's first committee briefing book highlights a number of critical disarmament topics and suggests how governments can achieve progress. INEW's contribution gives background on the explosive weapons issue and recommendations to states for action that can be taken during and beyond the UN General Assembly first committee discussions this autumn. Read more

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