While the global pandemic has exacerbated the human suffering caused by bombing in populated areas, it has halted the international negotiations for the adoption of a political declaration on the issue. States gathered online at the discussion "Protecting Civilians in Urban Warfare" on September 7, to keep the momentum and revive the diplomatic process.
Humanity & Inclusion's Advocacy Director, Anne Héry, explains the outcomes of the meeting:
Ireland organized a conference on September 7, reviving the diplomatic process to create an international political declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The COVID-19 pandemic had temporarily delayed this Ireland-led process, which began in October 2019.
So far, more than 70 States have been involved in the draft of the international political declaration. The next step should be a final round of negotiations expected to take place before the end of 2020. Then, the international political declaration should be proposed to States for endorsement during a conference in Dublin next year. We welcome the ongoing efforts led by Ireland which lead this diplomatic process to develop such a declaration.
Bombing & shelling make COVID-19 response impossible for countries
Conflict-affected countries are not in a capacity to contain the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic shows how devastating bombing and shelling are for civilians. In countries torn by war and explosive violence like Syria, Libya, and Yemen, health care systems already severely disrupted by bombing face huge challenges in providing the medical assistance and preventive measures needed to overcome the virus.
The use of heavy explosive weapons damages and destroys hospitals and other medical facilities, as well as power and water supply lines and sanitation networks. As preventing the spread of the virus is key, a lack of access to clean water and electricity makes it impossible to implement basic hygiene measures such as hand-washing and to access to critical, internet-based public health information.
States must stand against the most destructive weapons in populated areas
So far, more than 70 States have contributed to the draft of the political declaration. Arguments and positions are diverse. But we think there is a minimum standard on which States have to agree on. States should unconditionally support not to use the most destructive weapons in cities, as UN and ICRC called last year: Many explosive weapons with wide area effects used in urban warfare today were originally designed for open battlefields. Inaccurate weapons put entire neighborhoods at risk, multiple rockets system simultaneously fire over a wide area, munitions produce large blast and fragmentation effects...
The UN Secretary-General and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) appealed in 2019 to warring parties not to use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas, because of their devastating impact on civilians.
PHOTO: HI clearance operations near Misrata, Libya, in 2019. The amount of remnants of war is incredible and such items remain a threat to the the population. Between November 2018 and March 2019, nearly 450 items have been destroyed, for a total weight of around 2 tons.
© T. Mayer / HI