PoC: Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas

Statement by Permanent Representative Ambassador Mona Juul in the Protection of Civilians Week side event 'Protecting civilians from explosive weapons in populated areas', 24 May 2023.

The event was co-hosted by the Missions of Austria, Ireland, Norway, INEW, UNODA, OCHA, ICRC.

Good morning. Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

It is an honor and a pleasure to speak at this side event on protecting civilians from explosive weapons in populated areas.

Norway has a strong focus on protection in our humanitarian policy. This includes protection from weapons which kill indiscriminately or pose a particular danger for civilians in armed conflict. We have drawn attention to the risks to civilians in urban warfare, including the protracted and accumulated harm caused by using explosive weapons in populated areas. This issue was a priority during our membership, and presidency of the Security Council last year.

The Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas represents an important milestone in our joint efforts to better protect civilians from the harmful effects of explosive weapons. It is an acknowledgment of the devastating consequences for civilians including children; the destruction of civilian infrastructure that disrupts essential services, and the long-term consequences for the prospects of achieving sustainable peace and development.

The horrific consequences of war for civilians in urban areas such as in Ukraine and Sudan recently, and in many other places for years, remind us that how wars are fought matters. What type of weapons are used, and where they are used, matters. The international laws of war are more important than ever. Civilians must be better protected.

Political agreements and declarations, together with the UN’s disarmament conventions are important tools. Moving forward, our focus should be on practical measures towards implementation of the EWIPA declaration.

The declaration is so far endorsed by more than 80 states This is a result of systematic work and partnership between civil society, international organisations, and states. It is testimony to the declaration’s relevance to both military conduct and humanitarian efforts, and a demonstration of political will.

However, universalisation, getting all regions on board, is a crucial for the declaration to have a global impact. We need to identify states that are willing to become champions in their region, and advocate for endorsement of the declaration.

Norway will host the first follow up meeting on the EWIPA declaration in Oslo in 2024. We would very much like to have co-hosts from other regions. We encourage states to come forward and consider taking on this role.

The declaration encourages cooperation between states, and in particular cooperation between armed forces, on the development of policies and guidelines, and with training material and rehearsals. We welcome and look forward to discussions on how we can improve our efforts in this regard. 

Let me take this occasion to tribute civil society organisations’ consistent work over many years. This includes the work by the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) on advocacy, data collection, field research and monitoring reports. This has been imperative to gain attention to the problem of explosive weapons in populated areas and the increased urbanisation of warfare.

Data collection informed the annual report of the Secretary-General on protection of civilians. And it brought the world’s attention to the fact that 90% of casualties in urban areas are civilians. The monitoring and data collection produced by INEW, Action on Armed Violence, UNIDIR and the ICRC also brought in a whole new vocabulary to the debate on explosive weapons: patterns of harm, reverberating effects, critical infrastructure, and drivers of displacement.

This builds on Norway’s long-standing support to evidence-based approach to policymaking. Data collection, field research and monitoring reports are crucial for effectful humanitarian efforts and protection work.

We’ve seen this in our work with the ‘Safe Schools declaration’, that has now been endorsed by 118 states. Norway will continue to support the implementation on the ground. We have launched a State-led Implementation Network, where all endorsing states have been invited to strengthen state-ownership of the implementation process. We are pleased that so far, over 12 countries have revised their military doctrines or training manuals to restrict the use of schools and universities for military purposes.

We believe that the EWIPA declaration also has real potential to influence policy and make an impact, and we look forward to continue working together on this issue.

Thank you.