This post was originally published by INEW.
States Agree on Final Text of Political Declaration on the Use of Explosive Weapons
- The text of the political declaration on the use of explosive weapons was finalized today
in Geneva with overwhelming support from states.
- A group of states have already expressed intentions to sign the declaration or hav
indicated they are working towards that decision, including Argentina, Austria, Belgium,
Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Mexico,
Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Spain,
State of Palestine, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.
- The political declaration recognizes the devastating harm to civilians from bombing and
shelling in towns and cities, and it commits states to impose limits on their use and take
action to address harm to civilians.
17 June 2022 – States, civil society, and international organizations met in Geneva on 17 June
and finalised the text of the political declaration aimed at strengthening the protection of civilians
arising from the use of explosive weapons in towns, cities, and other populated areas.
With overwhelming support and a packed room, the text of the political declaration was tabled
and presented by Ireland, chair of the process, and agreed to without changes. There was
overwhelming gratitude and support for Ireland’s leadership of the process over the past three
years, along with support for the text of the declaration, with several delegations announcing
plans to sign it in Dublin later this year at the signing conference.
Despite contestation of this issue by many militarised states throughout the process to develop
a political declaration – where some states refused to recognize that explosive weapons present
distinct humanitarian problems and resisted efforts to impose limitations on their use – many of
these states have announced support for the text reflecting a sea change in positions.
Many states either expressed their intention to sign the political declaration when it is open for
signature at a signing conference in Dublin or indicated that they are working towards this
decision. These states include Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Finland,
France, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway,
Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Spain, State of Palestine, Sweden, Switzerland, United
Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.
Today, nearly all states that shared views on the final declaration text recognized the harm
caused by explosive weapons when used in populated areas. Many also acknowledged the
devastating direct, indirect, and/or reverberating effects of their use on civilians and, in some
cases, the particularly high risk of civilian harm presented by the use of explosive weapons with
wide-area effects. One state – New Zealand – credited the lengthy period of negotiations on the
declaration text with helping it better understand the full extent of civilian harm caused by the
use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Another state – Germany – indicated a desire for
continued discussion to help better understand the foreseeable indirect effects of explosive
The political declaration commits states to impose limits on the use of explosive weapons in
populated areas to avoid civilian harm. It also commits states to assist victims and address the
long-term impacts that stem from damage and destruction to civilian infrastructure.
Several states and civil society organizations acknowledged that the declaration – particularly its
key commitment in paragraph 3.3 – fell short of expectations for a clear and explicit commitment
to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas when they have wide area effects.
However, many shared the view that the text provides a platform to work and promote changes
in state policy and practice through the implementation of the declaration at the national level. In
this regard, the adoption of the political declaration is a starting point for a process of work that
will now begin – not an endpoint.
A key priority now is that states join the political declaration and work to implement it effectively
and interpret it in ways that will prevent harm to civilians and make a difference on the ground.
The next practical step will be the signing conference later this year – where the first states to
join the declaration will be able to discuss the way ahead. Other states will still be able to join
the declaration over time.
The meeting closed with a round of applause for Ireland’s efforts, with Ambassador Michael
Gaffey noting that the declaration will be relevant to current as well as future conflicts, and that it
sends out a message on the protection of civilians which has never been more necessary.
Agreement of the political declaration will be a major step forward and a significant contribution
to protecting civilians from bombing and shelling in towns and cities. States joining the
declaration will be recognising that explosive weapons pose specific challenges for the civilians
when they are used in towns and cities and are committing to take action to address those
States will need to work to implement the political declaration without delay, developing policies
to operationalise the declaration at the national level which must bring about changes of
practice in line with the declaration’s aim and commitments. This will be particularly important
when it comes to changing military policy and practice.
Building stronger standards and driving forward significant change takes time. While the
declaration’s impact might not be immediate, it demonstrates states’ commitments to
addressing the challenges that civilians face when explosive weapons are used in populated
areas. States have the primary responsibility to protect civilians – and INEW will be working to
promote the declaration and to promote strong implementation and interpretation of its
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