On 21 and 22 September, Austria and UNOCHA have invited interested states, international and civil society organisations – including Action on Armed Violence – to join discussions in Vienna aimed at addressing harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including through a possible political commitment.
For AOAV, as part of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), 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.
Action on Armed Violence, as part of 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.
A pamphlet on the commitments that INEW – and AOAV – seeks to establish surrounding the protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has been produced. It is called A commitment to act.
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