In the month since Hamas’ horrific attack on civilians in Israel and the start of Israel’s operations in the Gaza Strip, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has risen to the top of the international agenda with civilians paying the price. Civilians should never be the target of war but over the past month civilians and civilian homes, hospitals, businesses and schools have been destroyed. The level of violence and the increasing death toll has left those of us far away feeling helpless. We can condemn Hamas’ attack on civilians and Israel’s indiscriminate and disproportionate attack on Palestinian civilians and we do, but what other actions can be taken?
The tragic results of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas cannot be ignored and this is why the EWIPA Political Declaration was endorsed by 83 states last year, including Canada. The Political Declaration provides a tool for action as we see horrific bombing that has killed an approximately 10,000 people in less than a month. The International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), which MAC helped co-found, released an open letter to political declaration signing states, and encourages all States and members of the public to read this urgent call for the protection of civilians. This letter calls upon all parties to stop firing in areas populated by civilians and for signing States to undertake their commitment to “actively promote the declaration.” Canada needs to follow the EWIPA Political Declaration they signed and condemn any use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Mines Action Canada fully supports and echoes INEW’s calls for action in their open letter:
- Publicly acknowledge and call for action to address the devastating impacts on civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and to support our call to stop the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas;
- Use diplomatic means and influence to promote specific actions in line with the Declaration including to:
- Call on parties to the conflict to take into account both the direct and indirect effects on civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas;
- Call on parties to the conflict to facilitate rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to those in need;
- Call on parties to the conflict to provide, facilitate or support assistance to victims – which includes people injured, survivors, families of people killed or injured as well as communities affected by the armed conflict;
- Call on parties to the conflict to facilitate the work of the United Nations, the ICRC, and civil society organisations aimed at protecting and assisting civilian populations from the humanitarian impacts of explosive weapon use.
For Canadians, we can take action in support of protecting civilians by sharing the INEW Open Letter with our representatives. Building on the public calls for action from Canada, the Open Letter offers some very clear actions that Members of Parliament and Senators can work towards. By linking our calls for action to one of Canada’s international agreements, we have the opportunity to talk about Canada’s obligation to speak up. Mines Action Canada is also urging all combatants to implement "an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities" as called for by the majority of UN member states in Emergency Resolution ES-10/23 on 27 October 2023 so you can share that resolution with parliamentarians as well. We encourage you to email your MPs the INEW open letter or call their office to tell them how you feel. If you need help with what to say, you can always reach out to ask us. For calling, it can help to have a script of what you want to say if they answer or if you end up leaving a message. Here is how you find your Member of Parliament's contact information using their name, your constituency or your postal code.
Another way you can help is by donating to organizations who are providing humanitarian support to Palestinians. Some examples include UNICEF Canada, the Humanitarian Coalition, Canadian Red Cross, and our partner Humanity and Inclusion who supports persons with disabilities in Palestine.
The Political Declaration makes it clear, civilians should never be the target of conflict. Canada needs to step up and condemn all use of explosive weapons in populated areas and promote peace.