9 February 2020 (Geneva, Switzerland) – Governments should make a commitment to avoid using explosive weapons with wide area effect in populated areas (EWIPA) when they meet in Geneva on February 10, 2020. CIVIC has submitted recommendations that it hopes are incorporated into a forthcoming political declaration to ensure the protection of civilians from harm arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

“Governments must strengthen the protection of civilians and commit to avoid using explosive weapons with wide area effect in populated areas,” said Sahr Muhammedally, Director of MENA and South Asia at Center for Civilians in Conflict. “Urban war has a devastating impact on civilians – destroying lives, livelihoods, and access to healthcare and education. Armed actors should commit to developing and sharing good practices and policies on civilian protection and effectively assist victims of armed conflict.”

CIVIC has long seen the impact of war in populated areas in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Somalia, Ukraine, and Yemen. Around the world, it is estimated that some 50 million people suffer the effects of urban warfare. In urban areas, we see armed actors hide themselves amongst civilian populations, exposing civilians to heightened risk of harm. The fight in cities often involves the use of aerial bombs, artillery shelling, multiple barrel rockets, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These explosive weapons have a large destructive radius, impacting civilians and critical civilian infrastructure (water, electricity, sanitation, and hospitals) within the blast radius, even if militaries are seeking to target military objectives. Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) found that in nearly every year of the past decade, civilians accounted for over 90 percent of all casualties when explosive weapons were used in populated areas.

Over the past decade, CIVIC has engaged with parties to the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Nigeria to build their capacity to mitigate harm to civilians and encourage the adoption and sharing of good practices and policies related to indirect fire weapons. Since 2012, CIVIC has participated in discussions led by Austria, Ireland, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the International Network of Explosive Weapons (INEW), of which we are member of, on a political declaration on explosive weapons in populated areas.