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Ending bombing in populated areas: States must commit to the political declaration supported by UN Secretary General António Guterres

Press release | 26th May 2020, 13:00

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres published his annual report on the protection of civilians. He will brief the Security Council during the protection of civilians open debate (virtual) on 27 May at 10:00 a.m. (New York time). In his report, the Secretary-General denounces the practice of bombing in populated areas and the disastrous consequences for civilians. He also supports the current diplomatic effort to develop a political declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Humanity & Inclusion and its partners from the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) are fully engaged in this diplomatic process which started in October 2019 to end bombing in urban areas and urge States to support a strong political declaration to end human suffering caused by explosive weapons.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres says in the report that he “welcomes” the ongoing efforts of Member States and other relevant actors to develop a political declaration to address the humanitarian impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. "As the discussions continue, States should commit to avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas and develop operational policies against such use", he adds.

The final draft of a political declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is about to be finalized after 9 months of intense discussions between States and NGOs. Ireland is committed to host an international conference to invite States to endorse it. 

 “States have a historic opportunity to make a real difference in protecting civilians from a major cause of humanitarian catastrophe in modern conflict: the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. We are calling to all States to acknowledge the harm caused to civilians by explosive weapons in populated areas and promote strong language for the future political declaration. The UK and France in particular, as permanent members of the Security Council should engage unequivocally to ensure that the opposition to the project conveyed by countries like China or the US does not sabotage the future Political Declaration.” says Aleema Shivji, Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion UK.

When explosive weapons are used in populated areas, over 90% of those killed and injured are civilians. 250,000 people were killed and injured from the use of explosive weapons around the world between 2011 and 2019.

Massive bombardments in populated areas have terrible humanitarian consequences: families torn apart, life-changing injuries, psychological trauma, forced displacement, destruction of essential infrastructure (hospitals, ports, bridges, etc.) and ever worsening poverty. Massive bombardments in Libya, Syria and Yemen has also had long lasting effects on the development of these countries by destroying vital infrastructures and services, and disrupting economy. The contamination caused by explosive remnants of war will impede or make more difficult any efforts for reconstruction. 

Example of Syria destroyed by a decade of massive bombardment

Since December 2011, there has been repeated use of explosive weapons in populated areas in Syria. Many civilian infrastructures have been hit, including schools, health centers and hospitals. Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) reports that nearly 80,000 people were killed or injured by explosive weapons between 2011 and 2018, 87% of which were civilians.

Working in Jordan and Lebanon Humanity & Inclusion’s teams are witnessing the suffering and trauma of the Syrian population and impossibility of their return due to the huge work which may never be achieved to restore social or economic activities and the life-threatening risks of heavy contamination.  As Syria’s essential infrastructure and economy are destroyed, 80% of Syrians currently live below the poverty line.

Main cities like Aleppo, Homs and Raqqa are totally or partially devastated. These locations saw heavy aerial bombardment, leaving roads, housing, schools, health centers, and water and sanitation systems either destroyed or rendered non-functional.

Contamination with explosive remnants of war is one of the main obstacles preventing the return of refugees and displaced persons. In Syria, 11.5 million people are exposed to the risks posed by explosive remnants of war, according to UNMAS.

"In Syria, the consequences of 9 years of bombing in populated areas have been terrible: families torn apart, devastated cities, entire populations fleeing en masse, explosive remnants contaminating entire neighborhoods, etc. People are in a dire situation and will need humanitarian aid for many years to come. The country's infrastructure is being destroyed making access to basic services such as health a top priority for humanitarian organizations." says Aleema.

Exacerbating effect of bombing on COVID-19 response capacity  

Humanity & Inclusion fully supports United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres calls for a global ceasefire in order to facilitate efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Humanity & Inclusion sees on the ground how bombing in populated areas exacerbates the lack of capacity for war-torn countries to respond to the pandemic. Response to the pandemic requires strong health infrastructures and services, strong channels of information for prevention, the capacity of society to organize itself to implement preventive measures and care in an inclusive and accessible way. Everything that massive bombing in urban areas has been destroying in countries such as Libya, Syria and Yemen.


- Interview available upon request with Humanity & Inclusion’s experts

- Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have been supporting Humanity & Inclusion's work with injured and traumatized Syrian refugees, as well as our Stop Bombing Civilians campaign.

Press contact

Marlene Manning, Humanity & Inclusion UK

Email: [email protected]

About Humanity & Inclusion

Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is a charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights. 

Humanity & Inclusion is the new name of Handicap International



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