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Statement to the Vienna Conference on Protecting Civilians in Urban Warfare

Delivered by Steve Goose, Executive Director, Arms Division

Thanks for the floor.  I’m Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch.  Human Rights Watch is a co-founder of the International Network on Explosive Weapons.

I thank this interesting panel, and indeed the two previous panels. This has been a highly informative day, though also highly disturbing given the subject. 

It has also been energizing, with many calls for action, and in particular calls for the development of a political declaration committing states to better protect civilians from attacks on urban areas.

The three panels have demonstrated conclusively that the main cause of civilian harm from armed conflict is the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. 

This is especially notable when one takes into account not just the immediate harm (deaths and injuries), but also the long-term harm from reverberating effects (on infrastructure, electricity, water, and other critical services).

As a result of the unacceptable risks they impose on civilians, explosive weapons with wide area effects should not be used in populated areas.

This should be the key thrust of a political declaration.

My question for the panel is: what steps or measures (technical, policy, other) can you identify that could be taken to facilitate the avoidance of the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas?


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