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Geneva, 16 June 2022: Ireland to present final draft of declaration to protect civilians from explosive weapons in populated areas

On Friday 17 June, at the UN Palais in Geneva, Ireland will present the final draft of the Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas.

This final draft is the culmination of up to three years of consultations, throughout which Member States, the UN, the ICRC, human rights organisations, and a variety of civil society organisations, including INEW and AOAV, worked together to address the devastating and reverberating humanitarian impacts of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, especially when these have wide-area effects.

AOAV welcomes Ireland’s dedication and perseverance in overseeing the process and pushing for a political declaration which speaks for all those present, but most importantly, which speaks for those people who have been impacted by explosive weapons use. AOAV is also grateful to Member States and humanitarian partners for their inputs and contributions in formulating a declaration which can actionably reduce civilian harm from explosive weapon use.

A Decade of Explosive Violence

From the 1st of July 2012 to the 13 of June 2022, AOAV recorded 30,558 reported incidents of explosive violence around the world, as reported in English-language sources. These incidents caused 348,314 casualties, including 251,861 (72%) civilian casualties across 133 countries. At least 8,697 women and 18,612 children are among the reported civilian casualties.

In that time, 91% (228,573) of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas; when explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 91% of casualties were civilians.

From 1 July 2012 to 13 June 2022, 15% (39,298) of civilian casualties happened when explosive weapons were deployed in urban residential areas; 15% (38,584) in locations where multiple urban areas were impacted by the blast; 10% (24,561) in markets; 7% (17,648) in villages; 7% (16,578) in places of worship; 5% (13,224) on roads; 5% (12,984) in commercial premises; 4% (11,233) at public gatherings; and 4% (9,903) in public buildings. The remaining 5% of civilian casualties occurred in places where no location information was reported.

IEDs caused 48% (120,444) of civilian casualties in that time. 25% (62,941) of civilian casualties were caused by air-launched weapons; 21% (53,112) by ground-launched weapons; 4% (8,855) by combined explosive weapons; 1% (2,881) by mines; and <1%by naval-launched weapons. 1% of civilian casualties were caused by unclear weapon types.

It’s time to take action on explosive violence.

The Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas marks a milestone in efforts to cement the protection of civilians into the practices of warfare. The declaration addresses the devastating impacts of explosive weapons in populated areas, including damage to the environment and hospitals, schools and other infrastructure essential for civilians’ survival, as well as the assistance due to survivors, as part of a range of measures to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict and respect for international humanitarian law.

Ambassador Michael Gaffey, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations in Geneva, said: “Ireland looks forward to the conclusion of the negotiations tomorrow. The political declaration includes a powerful recognition of the humanitarian consequences of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and highlights the severe, long-lasting impacts it has on civilians. Most significantly, the declaration includes ambitious and forward-looking actions that States will take to address those impacts, as well as a commitment to strengthen compliance with and improve the implementation of international humanitarian law.

“We will call on States to come together to collectively implement the declaration. We hope that concluding the negotiations tomorrow is just the beginning rather than the end of this important process, which we hope will make a real difference on the ground to the lives of civilians caught up in conflict.”

AOAV’s casualty figures represent the lowest of estimations in terms of the number of people killed and injured by explosive weapon use. In an effort to quantify the explicit harm caused by specific explosive weapons, AOAV solely records incident-specific casualty figures, as reported in English-language media.

AOAV condemns the use of violence against civilians and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. All actors should stop using explosive weapons with wide-area affects where there is likely to be a high concentration of civilians.