Urban warfare needs new curbs on explosive weapons, urge humanitarians |

Development is driven by the recognition that civilians are at increased risk from increasingly protracted, complex, and urbanized armed conflicts.

The weapons that continue to be used in urban environments are completely unsuited to densely built areas, a fact emphasized by United Nations Secretary-General’s Annual Report on the Protection of CiviliansDominique Gassauer, Humanitarian Affairs Officer, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Today, an estimated 50 million people live in urban conflict situations or are threatened by urban conflict and face acute risks and dangers posed by these weapons,” she said. this causes”. “So the political statement tomorrow that Ireland has managed this process for the past three years will present will be an important step towards strengthening the protection of civilians.”

Boys stand in front of a damaged vehicle in Sa'ada, Yemen.

© WFP / Jonathan Dumont

Boys stand in front of a damaged vehicle in Sa’ada, Yemen.

Disasters around the world

Last year, more than 1,200 incidents involving the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas were recorded in 21 conflict-affected countries, resulting in the death or injury of more than 10,000 people. OCHA Officially noted. Nearly 90% of the victims were civilians, indicating the need to update international standards for the use of these weapons.

“You may be surprised to hear this, but even in densely populated areas, explosive weapons with large effects can be used under international humanitarian law, but… this is extremely difficult to achieve. yes,” said Eirini Giorgou, Legal Adviser, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Increasing political will

She added: “This political declaration establishes a framework for deeper working among States and it signals that there is political will, determination to act to solve the problem that States perceive. is a pressing concern and the need to better protect civilians.”

Delivering that message, civil society joined the International Network for Explosive Weapons (I’m NEW) notes that there is particular interest in weapons systems that “affect a large area: heavy aircraft bombs, missiles, rockets, artillery; These are heavy weapons that are often inaccurate, outdated, and designed for use in open battlefields,” said Laura Boillot, INEW Coordinator. “They are completely unsuitable for use in towns and cities.”

Over the past decade, there have been incidents involving explosive weapons in urban areas in 123 different countries, “so this is really a very common and serious problem,” Ms. Boillot said. .

Children walk past damaged buildings in Benghazi, Libya.

© UNOCHA / Giles Clarke

Children walk past damaged buildings in Benghazi, Libya.

Go to the weapon of choice

She added that the issue of the destruction of explosives had been “hotly debated by many unnamed countries”, before recalling that for more than 100 years explosive weapons had been the “weapon of choice”, not least is in cities carpeted during World War II. .

Ms. Boillot noted that thinking had changed about the use of these weapons of mass destruction after that conflict, adding that international pressure for new limits on the use of weapons Explosions in densely populated areas were signaled during international meetings in Maputo in 2017 and in Santiago in 2018.

“Political declaration on strengthening the protection of civilians from the humanitarian consequences arising from the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas” to be presented to Member States at the United Nations in Geneva, on Friday.

About 60 delegations are expected to participate in consultations before the official signing ceremony later this year.

Ms. Giorgou said: If the final text of the Declaration is adopted as it is, the United Nations, ICRC and civil society will be involved in bringing it into force.

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