Addressing the harm caused by explosive weapons: what New Zealand can do

In August in New Zealand, Thomas Nash of Article 36 and the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), Marnie Lloyd of the New Zealand Red Cross and Edwina Hughes of Peace Movement Aotearoa discussed a number of humanitarian and disarmament issues including the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, nuclear weapons and autonomous weapons at a forum organised by Peace Movement Aotearoa.

Nash published a blog ‘Preventing Harm From the Bombing of Towns and Cities: What New Zealand Can Do‘, on how New Zealand can support international efforts to prevent harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. He also gave an interview to Radio New Zealand, in which he encouraged the government of New Zeland to use its reputation for pragmatic and progressive foreign policy lines to play a strong role on this issue.

INEW side event at the first Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Evidence and testimonies on the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons in populated areas, and the action that states should take towards addressing the grave humanitarian harm caused, were discussed at this September event, featuring work by members of INEW.

Rob Perkins from Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) presented the latest global humanitarian impact data from AOAV’s Explosive Weapon Survey. The survey uses English-langugage media sources to record deaths and injuries from the use of explosive weapons worldwide. It showed that at least 41,847 casualties were caused by explosive weapons in 2014. 92% of casualties in populated areas were reported to be civilians, compared to 34% in other areas. AOAV recorded casualties from explosive weapons in 58 countries and territories around the world in 2014. Perkins presented preliminary analysis from the survey for 2015, which shows Yemen to be the country most severely affected by the use of explosive weapons during the first half of this year, in terms of casualties.

Casualties from attacks on populated and non-populated areas, 2014 (© Action on Armed Violence)

Mark Hiznay of Human Rights Watch (HRW) spoke on HRW’s recent investigations into the impact of Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen. Hiznay showed powerful videos on the terrible harm caused by airstrikes in the Yemeni port city of Mokha and in Saada City. Airstrikes that killed at least 65 civilians, including 10 children, and wounded dozens in Mokha on July 24, were documented by HRW investigators in Yemen. HRW compiled the names and ages of 59 people killed in aerial attacks in Saada City between April 6 and May 11 on the basis of information from relatives, witnesses, medical staff, and local Houthi authorities. Hiznay also discussed some of the munition remnants found.

Kim Brown of Save the Children focused on the devastating impact on children living through conflict of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including psychological impacts and links with the refugee crisis. Brown noted that in addition to killing and injuring children, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas results in children being denied access to healthcare and the opportunity to go to school. It also prevents life-saving humanitarian aid from reaching children, causing them to be displaced from their homes, exposing them to the risk of separation from their families and communities, and increasing their vulnerability to exploitation and abuse. Sharing testimonies from children across the world affected by the use of these weapons, she highlighted the concern expressed at this issue by more than 40 countries as well as by the UN Secretary-General, who has called for states to develop a commitment to refrain from the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas.

The event was chaired by Richard Moyes of Article 36 and INEW, who noted that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is a major humanitarian problem, requiring significant political engagement. He emphasised the need for states to respond to the call to develop an international political commitment in order to begin addressing this issue.

On 21 and 22 September, Austria and UN OCHA have invited interested states, international and civil society organisations to join discussions in Vienna aimed at addressing harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including through a possible political commitment. During the discussion at this side event, Austria highlighted the Vienna meeting as an opportunity to reflect and engage on the issues surrounding the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and to consider the options to address this pressing humanitarian concern.

Read more

Round up: Meetings in Geneva highlight explosive weapons problem, paths to action

International Network on Explosive Weapons

Interview with Radio New Zealand

Preventing Harm From the Bombing of Towns and Cities: What New Zealand Can Do


Photo: © Handicap International

Posted in: Explosive weapons,