A bomb goes off downtown in your city. Several hundred people are killed or injured, homes destroyed, transit systems down, roadways blocked, and grocery stores blown up in an instant. Rebuilding can’t happen as fast, and it could take years to have downtown be a space that supports the thousands of civilians, like you, who call it home.
On Day 4 of International Development Week, we are examining how explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) cause immense damage to civilian populations. In addition to the immediate death and injury these weapons cause, EWIPA causes severe damage to critical civilian infrastructure which can bring the economy to a halt and reverse progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Let’s dig into how the use of explosive weapons in populated areas negatively impacts the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
EWIPA affects goals that require working infrastructure to make possible. This includes Zero Hunger (SDG #2), Quality Education (SDG #4), Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG #6), Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG #7), Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG #8), Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure (SDG #9), and Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG #11). These SDGs all require working facilities; for example, to have clean water you need a water treatment facility, to have a quality education you need a school, and to have zero hunger you need access to grocery stores and markets. If these SDGs are all negatively impacted, Zero Poverty (SDG #1) and Good Health and Wellbeing (SDG #3) are inevitably impacted as well. Civilians can’t live free of poverty, in good health and happiness when they can’t access basic necessities after experiencing the psychological trauma of warfare. These are just some examples of how destroying civilian infrastructure creates barriers towards sustainable development.
In 2022, 83 States endorsed a political declaration on explosive weapons in populated areas, vowing to “implement, and, where necessary, review, develop or improve national policy and practice with regard to the protection of civilians during armed conflict involving the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.” This was an amazing step in the right direction, towards protecting civilians and their ability for development. This momentum needs to continue- the political declaration was only a commitment, and now States need to follow through with the commitments they have made by changing policy and practice.
This political declaration can help all the previously mentioned SDGs be achieved, as well as Gender Equality (SDG #5), Reduced Inequalities (SDG #10), and Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions (SDG #16). The EWIPA declaration is a rights-based, humanitarian centred approach where countries such as Canada can adhere to as part of their Feminist Foreign Policy which advances gender equality. When civilian infrastructures are damaged, inequalities are exacerbated as some people are unable to flee the area. Finally, there is no peace when weapons are being dropped indiscriminately and killing civilians. Too often, there is no justice either and militaries are left unaccountable.
Not using explosive weapons in areas heavily populated by civilians helps protect or advance 12 out of the 17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. If your country hasn’t signed the political declaration, urge them to do so without delay. If your country has signed the political declaration, keep the pressure on them to follow-through with the commitment. Using explosive weapons in populated areas has explosive consequences for development. Let’s choose to protect civilians and work towards sustainable development!