Monday, 28 November, 2022

80 states agree UN-backed curb on explosives in urban areas

DUBLIN: Eighty states committed at a conference in Dublin on Friday to a declaration backed by the United Nations and the Red Cross curbing the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, reports AFP.

Under the agreement, which is not legally binding, the nations agreed to restrict the use of munitions in built-up areas in a bid to protect civilians caught up in increasingly urbanised warfare.

All of the members of the G7 group of economically advanced nations, including the United States, have joined the political declaration. But neither China nor Russia have adopted the text.

Moscow has faced widespread criticism for its bombing campaign targeting urban areas across Ukraine, which has escalated in recent weeks following battlefield setbacks.

The declaration, which was finalised at the UN in Geneva in June, is the culmination of three years of consultations led by Ireland.

The devastating humanitarian and development consequences of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas cannot be overstated, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told the conference.

We want this political declaration to be relevant to current and future conflicts by sending an unambiguous message on the fundamental importance of the protection of civilians, always, he added.

Mirjana Spoljaric, the new president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the text was a first of its kind to acknowledge the gravity of the problem and commit to taking concrete actions to address it.

She added It sends a powerful signal that belligerents cannot continue fighting in populated areas the way they have until now. This change in mindset and perspective is crucial.

The UN and ICRC have for years been calling on nations to commit to refrain from using munitions in places where civilians live and congregate.

Data and research from urban conflict, including wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and more recently Ukraine, have informed the declaration.

UN figures compiled from conflicts over the last decade have shown that civilians account for 90 percent of the casualties caused by explosives in urban areas. Only 10 percent are military casualties.

Nujeen Mustafa, a disability campaigner and Syrian refugee who fled street fighting in Aleppo to find refuge in Germany, told the conference When civilians are bombed, it’s not only their lives, cities and homes that are lost, but also their future.

She added I encourage you to honour this commitment because people living in conflict zones, that have fallen victim to explosive weapons, expect, need and deserve not just a written commitment but action.