Skip to main content

Final Consultations on a Political Declaration on the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas

Statement Delivered by Bonnie Docherty, Senior Researcher

Thank you.

First of all, let us express our gratitude to Ireland for the transparent, inclusive, and effective process that you have organized over the course of the challenging past few years.

The adoption of this declaration is a significant milestone in protection of civilians. 

As noted in the chapeau to the operative sections, the declaration has three goals—improving the protection of civilians, addressing the humanitarian consequences of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law. It thus goes beyond simply restating existing international law and commits states to take additional steps that will advance humanitarian ends.

The text achieves these goals in several ways. It recognizes the pattern of direct and indirect, or reverberating, effects caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. It commits states to collect data, assist victims, and hold follow-up meetings. It also includes commitments to adopt policies and practices that enhance civilian protection.

The finalization of the text is only the first step, however. Now states must turn to universalizing, interpreting and implementing the declaration. We are pleased to hear so many states say they will sign the declaration and encourage more to do so.

We urge states to interpret the language strongly. For example, while paragraph 3.3 is not worded as clearly as we would like, it can be interpreted to better protect civilians. States should refrain, i.e., avoid, the use in populated areas of explosive weapons with wide area effects, which the preamble shows increases the risk of civilian harm. States should restrict use of explosive weapons in populated areas in all other cases.

Finally, states should implement the declaration effectively, ensuring they turn its provisions on policies and practices, data collection, victim assistance, humanitarian access, and more into action.

Thank you.

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

Region / Country