Secretary-General Welcomes Upcoming Talks to Develop Political Declaration on Protecting Civilians from Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas – World

SG/SM/21209
28 MARCH 2022

The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres:

The Secretary-General welcomes the convening of the informal consultations in Geneva from 6 to 8 April, which aim to develop a political declaration to protect from the harm arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Since 2009, the Secretary-General has consistently highlighted the severe impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and has called on to conflict to avoid their use to prevent harm to civilians and civilian objects. When weapons are used in populated explosive areas 90 per cent of the consequences are civilians resulting in lasting trauma endured by millions of girls, boys, women and men.

Populated areas across regions have endured devastating suffering from a hail of explosive weapons with wide‑area effects. Certain types of explosive weapons with wide‑area effects were originally designed for use in traditional, open battlefields. When used in populated areas they inflict massive and often indiscriminate destruction impacting civilians and civilian objects, including health facilities, schools, water and sanitation, energy and other critical infrastructure, and the environment.

The damage and destruction of civilian objects and critical infrastructure can have reverberating effects on the civilian population far beyond the moment and point of impact. Such effects are devastating, for example, the long-term loss of access to education, health services, water, communications and livelihoods, which constitute an infringement of economic, social and cultural rights of the affected population.

The long-lasting destructive and disruptive effects of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas represent a main driver of mass displacement, both within states and across borders, while also hampering the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of displaced communities to their places of origin. Furthermore, the use of these weapons in populated areas often results in high levels of explosive‑ordnance contamination, which obstructs stabilization and reconstruction efforts long after hostilities have ceased. Removal through mine action activities is also complex, costly and dangerous.

The Secretary-General welcomes the work undertaken by States so far to develop a political declaration that addresses the humanitarian, as well as associated human rights impact arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

The Secretary-General calls for a strong text that includes an express commitment to avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide‑area effects in populated areas, because of the significant and foreseeable likelihood of their indiscriminate effects.

The Secretary-General supports the development of a political declaration, as well as appropriate limitations, common standards and operational policies in conformity with, and further to existing requirements under, international humanitarian law relating to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

For information media. Not an official record.

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