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Protection of civilians against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

Norway’s Intervention in the AU PSC Open Session 17. July 2019 made by Defence Attaché Terje Thomesen


Distinguished Chair, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Civilian harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has increased significantly in recent years.

More conflicts take place in urban settings; including on the African continent. Norway is deeply concerned about this development, and we very much welcome this initiative by the AU Peace and Security Council to discuss protection of civilians against explosive weapons.

The use of explosive weapons in populated areas cause long-term humanitarian harm, which far outlast the conflicts in which they are used. Even in Norway, three quarters of a century after WWII, bombs and other reminiscent of war are regularly found – often by civilians going about their daily lives. Beyond the immediate threat to civilian lives, the destruction of infrastructure continue to harm affected populations over the longer term.


A key tenet and a longstanding commitment of Norway’s humanitarian strategy is the protection of civilians. This has been a central motivation in Norway’s active engagement in the development and implementation of legally binding instruments such as the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Norway’s support of the Safe Schools Declaration is another example of our commitment.

A priority in our current efforts is protection of civilians from urban warfare; inter alia through focusing on the provisions of international law that specifically apply to military operations in urban areas. We also work to combat the use of weapons that continue to cause death and injury long after conflict is over. 

In working for enhanced protection, including in urban areas, we rely on cooperation with other committed states. We are pleased to take part in the cross regional group of countries that meet regularly in Geneva, and we value our partnership with Mozambique in this regard.  


How do we engage a wider audience on this important issue?

We can use a legal approach, focusing on targets, accuracy and effect, and how to develop better military practices.

We can use a practical approach, focusing on how to protect schools and hospitals and teach safety behavior to affected communities.

And we can also employ a normative approach, through the establishment of a political declaration on explosive weapons. We can develop common standards and operational policies, and share practices and experiences.

To this end, African countries have already contributed greatly. The Maputo communiqué recognizes the threat posed by explosive weapons used in populated areas, and acknowledges the need for enhanced action at national, regional and international levels to protect civilians. 

This communiqué has helped build support for an international political declaration on explosive weapons, and was followed last year by a similar regional communiqué by Latin American countries.

Norway has actively supported these processes, and will continue to support the protection of civilians in urban areas through political and financial means, with a view to reducing suffering and saving lives.

I thank you.