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Civilian harm from bombing is not a possibility, it is a fact. It cannot be ignored.

Explosive weapons
Destruction of the city of Raqqa, Syria, 2019.

Destruction of the city of Raqqa, Syria, 2019. | © HI

After a year of delay due to the pandemic, the international negotiations on a political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) finally continued in March 2021. Ireland, which is leading the process, released a draft declaration and almost 200 delegates gathered to respond.

Differing views on the declaration

All of the states involved have different views on the declaration – this is the nature of these kind of consultations. However, it is clear that there are two general groups:

Some are supportive, and are engaging with all parts of the text to ensure the protection of civilians.

Others, often NATO states, are more disruptive, suggesting language that questions the devastating impact of these explosive weapons and remaining reluctant to commitments that  suggest avoiding or restricting the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. This is where the UK sits currently.

States cannot ignore civilian harm

Many of our supporters, through signing the Stop Bombing Civilians petition, emailing their members of Congress or engaging with the campaign, have learnt about the unimaginable horrors faced by civilians living in areas where explosive weapons are used.  

90% of people killed or injured by explosive weapons in populated areas are civilians. These are people going about their everyday lives – going to school, getting shopping, visiting friends, heading to a doctor’s appointment.

When a bomb is dropped on a town or city, humanitarian harm is not a possibility, it is a fact.




Building on International Humanitarian Law

Something more needs to be done. Existing law which guide actions in periods of conflict, International Humanitarian Law, is not enough. The new declaration must improve on existing law, not just restate it, to change the status quo.

It must also clearly outline the need for States to provide and facilitate the provision of victim assistance, and include the unquestionable need for humanitarian access to support civilians in conflict zones.

After this round of consultations and in view of the diverging positions, Ireland’s job to draft a final text remains a challenge.

Voices of survivors

HI will continue to make sure that the process to agree a political declaration takes the voices of survivors into account. States must commit to a declaration with strong victim assistance provisions, including psychosocial support.

Nujeen from Syria, fled Aleppo to escape the bombing:

“I will never forget the fear of not waking up again, of losing my loved ones”.



Malik from Syria, lost his leg after his family home was bombed:




The dire suffering of civilians like Nujeen and Malik should force states to commit to a strong declaration to acknowledge this harm and bring forward effective change.

Date published: 05/04/21


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