Today in Geneva, Ireland chaired the final round of international negotiations on a Political Declaration on the use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas. Ireland has been leading the negotiations for three years, following lengthy international discussions and a call by the UN Secretary General on States to agree a Political Declaration to address the devastating impact on civilians. The Declaration agreed today will be adopted by States at an international conference to be held in Dublin in the autumn. The Political Declaration clearly recognises the immense humanitarian consequences of the use of explosive weapons in urban areas; it reinforces the obligation to comply with international humanitarian law and strengthens its implementation; and it sets out actions to be taken in military operations to strengthen the protection of civilians. Welcoming the culmination of three years of consultations, Minister Coveney said: “I welcome the agreement reached on the devastating humanitarian consequences of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and the actions which need to be taken to strengthen the protection of civilians. For too long, we have watched the destruction and suffering caused by the use of heavy weapons in urban areas. We have seen the appalling consequences for civilians in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen and, most recently in Ukraine, as I saw for myself during my visit last month. I’m proud that Ireland is leading this process to strengthen the protection of civilians from the severe, and long lasting effects of explosive weapons in populated areas. This political declaration is a very significant milestone. It powerfully recognises the humanitarian consequences of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Most significantly, the declaration includes a number of ambitious and forward looking actions that states will take to address those impacts, as well as a commitment to strengthen compliance with and improve the implementation of International Humanitarian Law. The implementation of this declaration will change how militaries operate in populated areas, including when the use of explosive weapons is expected to cause civilian harm. It will ensure that militaries take into account the effect of their actions not only on civilians but also on homes, hospitals, schools and vital resources such as food and energy systems. It also provides for improved data collection, the sharing of best practices and assistance to victims. I wish to thank States, International Organisations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and civil society for their strong engagement in the process. I look forward to the formal adoption of the declaration at a high-level international conference in Dublin in the autumn.”ENDS
Notes for editors
The Link to the agreed Political Declaration can be found here:EWIPA-Political-Declaration-Final-Rev-25052022.pdf (dfa.ie)
According to the UN Secretary General’s 2022 annual report on Protection of Civilians in armed conflict, civilians account for almost 90% of recorded causalities when explosive weapons were used in populated areas.
Humanitarian impacts include the destruction of critical infrastructure, such as roads, hospitals, and sanitation facilities, which are vital for the immediate humanitarian response, and for post-conflict development. Such destruction often acts as a catalyst for the displacement of people within and across borders, putting displaced persons and refugees at greater risk of exploitation and abuse. Beyond these effects, explosive remnants of war left by the use of EWIPA continue to kill and injure long after the conflict is over.
Disarmament and non-proliferation is one of Ireland’s five signature foreign policies. Ireland has previously assumed leadership roles in the negotiation of instruments including the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (2017), the Cluster Munitions Convention (2008), and the Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention (1996), as well as the creation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968).
The consultation process
In his 2018 Agenda for Disarmament: Securing our Common Future, the United Nations Secretary General called for the multilateral development of measures to address the civilian harm caused by EWIPA.
Since 2019, Ireland has chaired consultations on a Political Declaration, with the broad participation of UN Member States, International Organisations, the ICRC and civil society. The process has been chaired by Ambassador Michael Gaffey at the UN in Geneva.
The UNSG’s annual report on Protection of Civilians in armed conflict can be foundhere.