Implementing the Future Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas: Informing Changes to Military Policy and Practice
By Simon Bagshaw
Practical steps that States and their military forces should take to ensure the effective implementation of a future declaration on explosive weapons in populated areas are the focus of a new policy brief released today by Article 36.
Responding to the growing international concern at the devastating harm resulting from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, in November 2019, Ireland launched a consultative process to develop a political declaration to address this critical issue that is expected to conclude early next year.
Article 36, the International Network on Explosive Weapons, as well as the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and a broad range of States, have called for the future declaration to embody a presumption against the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas, such as a commitment to avoid such use. This would have the greatest impact in preventing and mitigating the widespread pattern of harm to civilians resulting from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and which led to calls for the development of the political declaration.
The current draft declaration lacks a sufficiently clear presumption against the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. However, it would commit States to ensure that their military forces restrict such use when the weapon’s effects might be expected to extend beyond a military objective. It would also commit States to ensure that their militaries take into account the direct, indirect and reverberating effects on civilians and civilian objects which can be reasonably foreseen in the planning of military operations and the execution of attacks in populated areas.
This new policy brief discusses these two key commitments in more detail. It elaborates ways in which they could be further strengthened to ensure more effective protection of civilians, in particular by providing express guidance to States and their military forces on the establishment of policies and practices that would allow them to:
- Assess and understand the scale of area effects of different explosive weapons.
- Assess and understand the generic urban context and how this influences weapon effects and the potential for harm to civilians and damage to civilian objects from direct, indirect and reverberating effects.
- Assess in real-time the specific operational context in which explosive weapons are to be used and the potential for harm to civilians and damage to civilian objects from direct, indirect and reverberating effects.
- Assess in real-time the impact on civilians and civilian objects of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
Download the report here: