Thank you, Chairperson.
We welcome the improvements to Section 4, particularly with regard to the victim assistance paragraph, but as with the other sections of the draft declaration, we see several areas that should be strengthened.
In Paragraph 4.2 on data collection, we urge the removal of the caveat “where feasible and appropriate” because it weakens the commitment to share data. As noted on the first day of the consultations, transparency promotes understanding, accountability, and effective implementation of this declaration. We also recommend broadening the types of data collected and shared to include damage to civilian objects and details about the operational use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including the number and types of weapons used, locations targeted, and the circumstances of use. Such information can offer valuable lessons about how best to protect civilians as well as inform efforts to respond to any harm caused, notably through explosive ordnance removal and risk education.
Paragraph 4.4 on victim assistance has been significantly improved. The commitment to “provide, facilitate and support assistance” is stronger than the previous version, and the understanding of “victim” is more comprehensive because it now includes “those critically injured, survivors, families of those killed or injured, and communities affected.”
The paragraph should, however, be expanded to identify key forms of assistance, including
- the meeting of basic needs such as shelter, food, water, medical care, sanitation, and electricity;
- timely access to emergency medical care;
- physical rehabilitation;
- psychosocial support and measures for socio-economic inclusion
- and support towards the realization of victims’ human rights.
Next, we recommend adding a Paragraph 4.4bis that reinserts the commitment to “provide and facilitate safe, rapid and unimpeded access” for humanitarian relief. Paragraph 2.3 recalls the existing international humanitarian law obligation to provide “passage” of humanitarian relief, but that paragraph is merely a preambular restatement of the law, and a commitment is required. In addition, “access” is a broader concept than passage, which typically refers to the delivery of assistance that has greater geographic and temporal constraints and is less sustained.
We echo comments made by other delegations this week in saying that a regular, robust follow-up mechanism is imperative if the promises made in this declaration are to have any effect. In light of the dedication seen in this room and the extensive civilian suffering we have all observed in recent months and years, work must begin as soon as possible. We urge states in Paragraph 4.6 to set a deadline for the first follow-up meeting along with a commitment to hold annual or biennial meetings. The paragraph should specify that those meetings are open to international organizations and civil society groups, thus maintaining the inclusive spirit in which the declaration has been negotiated. We also note that the proposed good practices working group mentioned in Paragraph 4.6 should be a pursuit that is separate and distinct from these regular state meetings.
Finally, we welcome the amendment to Paragraph 4.7 which commits states to seek the declaration’s “adoption and effective implementation.” In so doing, it emphasizes the need for states to operationalize the commitments in this declaration.