Remarks at OCHA Conference
Sahr Muhammedally, Senior Program Manager MENA and South Asia at civic, spoke at the OCHA conference on strengthening protection of civilians from use of explosive weapons in populated areas, UN ECOSOC Humanitarian Segment, June 24, 2014. (As prepared).
Thank you to OCHA and the mission of Norway for inviting me to discuss proactive steps taken by some multinational forces to curb the impact of explosive weapons in populated areas. I will share some key policies adopted by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) to strengthen protection of civilians.
My organization—Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)—works with warring parties to improve their ability to prevent civilian harm and respond to it when it occurs, by providing pragmatic solutions. In 2010, our team began working with AMISOM on civilian protection. At that time, civilian casualties caused by the coalition force were getting a lot of media attention thanks to the research of human rights groups and Somali civil society. The operational problem was created by gaps in policy that allowed for civilian harm. Our team traveled to Mogadishu at the invitation of Major General (ret) Roger Lane of the British armed forces and the African Union. With General Lane and AMISOM, we developed an “indirect fire policy.”
We identified the main problem in AMISOM policy as permissive indirect artillery fire, often used in response to al-Shabaab attacks on AMISOM positions. The “indirect fire policy” solution has three pillars, each with specific recommendations to curb civilian harm:
- Avoid civilian harm,
- attribute responsibility for civilian harm, and
- make amends for any civilian harm caused through appropriate responses.