The heads of organisations that make up the International Network on Explosive Weapons have written to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and to the Permanent Representatives of the 15 member states of the Security Council to express concern over the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Against the background of mounting civilian casualties and widespread destruction from artillery, rockets and airdropped bombs in the towns and cities of Gaza, Syria, Ukraine, the letters call for an international commitment to prevent the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. These are but recent example of a predictable pattern of harm caused when heavy explosive weapons are used in populated areas.

The International Network on Explosive Weapons has been working to highlight the problems posed by the bombing and bombardment of towns and cities and to date around 40 countries have recognised this as a specific humanitarian problem that should be addressed. Many have welcomed the UN Secretary-General’s recommendation that states should “avoid using explosive weapons with wide-area effect in populated areas.”

Discussions on this topic have largely taken place in the context of the UN Security Council debates on protection of civilians, but expert meetings in London and Oslo in the past 12 months have begun to identify specific policies and practices to prevent harm to civilians. These efforts will continue in the coming months, with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs compiling a set of existing practices by which states prevent harm to civilians from the use of explosive weapons. Building on these practices, INEW is calling for states to develop an international commitment to prevent the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas.

Upcoming opportunities for states to express concern about the use of explosive weapons in populated areas include:

–       the UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict on 8 September in New York;

–       the UN General Assembly’s high level segment in September in New York; and,

–       the UN General Assembly’s First Committee in October  in New York.

The letters have been signed by representatives of Action on Armed Violence, the Arab Human Security Network, Article 36, Center for Civilians in Conflict, Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas, Human Rights Watch, IANSA Women’s Network Nigeria, Nonviolence International Southeast Asia, Norwegian People’s Aid, Oxfam, PAX, Save the Children, Seguridad Humana en Latinoamerica y El Caribe, Sustainable Peace and Development Organisation, Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

The letters have been sent to the following Security Council members that have spoken out raising concerns over the use of explosive weapons in populated areas: Australia, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Nigeria and  Republic of Korea, as well as the other Security Council members including Argentina, Chad, China, France, Russia, Rwanda, United Kingdom, and the United States.

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