Destruction of the city of Kobani
Geneva talks

Changing military war practices

Today in Geneva, HI is participating in talks[1] on minimizing the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons in populated areas. One of the main focuses in the discussions will include changing the military’s best practices. HI, which leads the international Stop Bombing Civilians campaign to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, will focus on the humanitarian consequences of war.[2]

Civilians at risk

Conflicts are more frequently taking place in urban areas, and explosive weapons are almost systematically used. In such circumstances, civilians and civilian infrastructures are increasingly at risk. The use of explosive weapons in populated areas has disastrous effects on civilians such as death, injury, displacement, destruction of essential infrastructure, etc.

According to our partner organization, Action On Armed Violence (AOAV), 92% of the victims of bombing and shelling in populated areas are families: men, and women and children who do not take part in the combats—a staggering statistic that is unacceptable.

Changing military practices

The aim of the Geneva talks is to evaluate military practices: How to review targeting procedures, including collecting the right information on targets? How to select a suitable weapon to carry out the attacks, etc.? Discussions will also address how to prepare and inform civilians during hostilities, how to establish cooperation between military and local population and authorities, how to renew training and education of military on International Humanitarian Law, among others.

Technical or methodological solutions or recommendations exist to help protect civilians. For example, indirect fires often cause excessive collateral damage and should not therefore be used in populated areas (Fire is called “indirect” when the target is not in the line of sight). It is the case with artillery guns, mortars rockets systems, and other similar weapons.

HI for the protection of civilians

HI aims at ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Our organization promotes a political declaration of States to end such a practice. But as the declaration is still under negotiations and has a long way to go before being finalized, HI welcomes discussions on how to reduce civilian casualties. We call upon the States to share their best practices—the less impactful for civilians—and to support victim assistance.

During the talks, HI’s team will make a presentation on the humanitarian impact of the bombing in populated areas and the specific needs of people affected by explosive weapons, such as rehabilitation services and psychosocial support.

Stop Bombing Civilians campaign

Join our fight against the bombing of civilians by signing our global petition.


[1] The talks are organized by the German government, the International Committee of the Red Cross (CICR) and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (CIGHD)

[2] HI will be present at the talks with other members of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), an NGO coalition co-founded by HI in 2011.