Put civilians at the centre

On the second day of informal consultations on the draft political declaration the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, Mines Action Canada took the floor to share our views on Section 4 of the draft text.

Here is the statement: 

Thank you Ambassador.

One strength of a political declaration over a legal document is the increased availability of descriptive and human-centred language. Section 4 of the draft Political Declaration allows states to commit to making real life-saving change using language that puts civilians at the centre of their actions.  We support INEW’s stamen on this section but would like to highlight a few key points.

In particular Paragraph 4.4 should be strengthened significantly to put civilians at the centre. Revising this paragraph with more detail of what victim assistance includes will avoid creating differential obligations towards victims of different weapons. INEW, HRW and HI have all made excellent suggestions so I will put our support behind those.

The reference to urban warfare in paragraph 4.1 should be deleted since not all populated areas can be considered urban. The mention of urban here focuses the paragraph too narrowly on civilians who live in urban areas rather than civilians living in all populated areas.

We welcome the commitment to make data collected public in paragraph 4.2, however, we would like to see the phrase “where possible” deleted as it weakens this paragraph. Data is crucial for understanding how explosive weapons impact civilians and for providing life-saving services as mentioned by MAG therefore that data should be available widely. 

Paragraph 4.3 like others, should refer to all use of explosive weapons, not just that with wide area effects. Our efforts to limit the harm caused by explosive weapons should not exclude some types of these weapons. Additionally, the word “relevant” in qualifying civil society should be removed from this paragraph. We share Chile and Mexico’s questions about this language.

We support the suggestion by the Conflict and Environment Observatory to include language encouraging state signatories to support the work of the United Nations and other international and domestic stakeholders in identifying and implementing best practices in the assessment and environmentally sound management of conflict debris and pollution resulting from the use of explosive weapons.

We also support the inclusion of civil society in section 4.6 as mentioned by New Zealand, Chile, Mexico, Italy, Switzerland and others. We agree with Canada’s suggestion to ensure participatory and gender sensitive inclusion of civil society at all levels.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to strongly encourage states to be ambitious as we move towards a final version of this declaration. An ambitious document like the treaties adopted in Oslo in 1997 and Dublin in 2008 will save lives. Please keep people at the centre of your work here today and in the future.

Thank you Ambassador for your able and open chairing of week. We look forward to continuing the process.