Thank you, Ambassador. I make this statement on behalf of the International Explosive Weapons Network.
The impact and success of the political declaration will depend on the strength of section 3, and in particular paragraph 3.3. Paragraph 3.3 is the central commitment of the statement, and it should be bold and carefully crafted. This commitment can maximize the declaration’s power to protect civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
There are two main changes to be made in version 3.3. First, the expression explosive weapons with wide area of effect must be reinserted. As noted yesterday, this should be accompanied by language in section 1 of the preamble that when used in populated areas, explosive weapons with wide area of effect inevitably and significantly increase the risk of harm to civilians and damage to civilian objects given their concentration in populated areas. The preamble text should also describe factors that produce widespread effects – a wide blast and fragmentation radius, inaccuracy of delivery, multiple warheads being fired at an area, or a combination of these factors.
The second key change to paragraph 3.3 is to replace “restrict or abstain” with “avoid”. A commitment toavoid“The use of explosive weapons when they have widespread effects in populated areas would bring clarity and boldness to the fundamental commitment of the declaration and, in doing so, help ensure the best possible protection for civilians. This would reflect the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General, the ICRC and other field-based humanitarian organizations, as well as States. A change of mentality is urgently needed, and a commitment to avoid use encompasses an approach to the need to undertake prior assessments and policy changes to establish a presumption against such use.
This commitment could be further strengthened by suggesting specific assessments that would facilitate and promote a clear understanding and implementation of this commitment, including conducting a prior assessment of the area effects of specific types of explosives weapons and assessments of the specific contexts of use and the urban environment.
Additionally, the reference to “in accordance with international humanitarian law” should be deleted, as the paragraph is a political commitment under this declaration.
This commitment should also be higher in this device, given its centrality in the declaration and the fact that other commitments such as training flow from it.
“[A]Adopt and implement a range of policies and practices to avoid harm to civilians, including by avoid the use of explosive weapons with a wide range of action in populated areas, i.e. where the effects may extend beyond or occur outside military objective, and undertake a prior assessment of the area effects of weapons and the operational context, including both the generic urban environment and the specific context of use.”
In addition to 3.3, a new paragraph 3.4 bis would be essential. Although the political declaration recognizes the importance of civilian damage tracking in military operations in the preamble, it does not provide a corresponding commitment to do so in section 3. New text should be inserted, 3.4 bis. Tracking civilian damage in “real time” means tracking the number and rate of civilian casualties to know how many civilians are killed and injured, as well as tracking damage to civilian property. It would also involve assessing whether the situation is improving or worsening, which can help shape operational and policy responses to better protect civilians. Coupled with commitments to transparency on sharing data and investigating credible allegations of civilian harm, it can help provide better protection for civilians and promote respect for international law. Battle damage assessments and collateral damage estimation methodologies are useful military tools, but are not intended as tools for assessing humanitarian impacts and have some fundamental limitations.
“Establish capabilities to track, analyze, respond to and learn from incidents of civilian damage, including damage to civilian property”.
We have brief comments and suggestions for the remaining paragraphs in Section 3.
3.1 This commitment could be made more prescriptive in conducting specific actions that would be most effective in protecting civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas by adding “including the use of explosive weapons in populated areas”.
In addition, replacing the phrase “in respect of” with “to strengthen” would clarify and strengthen the commitments.
This commitment should refer to measures and good practices not only during – but also and after – a conflict.
“Review, develop, implement and, if necessary, expand or improve national policies and practices to enhance the protection of civilians during and after armed conflict, in particular the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
3.2 This commitment should ensure training on the declaration itself, rather than on international humanitarian law, which is already a legal obligation. It should be focused on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. And it must be applied both during and after an armed conflict.
“Ensure comprehensive training of our armed forces on this Declaration, and on the measures and good practices to be applied during and after the conduct of hostilities in populated areas to protect civilians and civilian objects against the use and impact of explosive weapons”.
3.4 We welcome a focus on addressing the ripple effects of the use of explosive weapons, which are considerable. The commitment could be further strengthened by making it clear that the armed forces should specifically assess and take action to mitigate the various foreseeable effects rather than simply taking them into account. It should remove the clause regarding battle damage assessments, which, as already noted, focus on military effectiveness rather than the civilian impact of military operations.
“Assess and take action to mitigate the direct and indirect effects on civilians and civilian objects reasonably foreseeable when planning military operations and executing attacks in populated areas.”
3.5 This commitment should include references to risk education and should replace explosive remnants of war with explosive ordnance, a broader term.
“Ensure the marking, clearance and removal or destruction of explosives ammunition as soon as possible after the end of active hostilities, and the provision of risk education”.
3.6 This engagement should focus on disseminating and understanding the operational commitments contained in this political declaration, rather than on disseminating IHL, which is already a legal obligation.
“Facilitating the dissemination and understanding of this Declaration and promote its observance and implementation by all parties to an armed conflict, including by non-State armed groups”.
INEW’s detailed comments and specific language suggestions have already been submitted in writing. Thank you.