Part A: Preamble
1.1 As armed conflicts become more protracted, complex, and urbanised, the risks to civilians have increased. This is a source of major concern and must be addressed. The causes of these risks involve a range of factors, including the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and pose complex challenges for the protection of civilians.
1.2 The use of explosive weapons can have a devastating impact on civilians and civilian objects in populated areas. Blast, debris and fragmentation effects cause deaths and injuries, including lifelong disability. Beyond these direct effects, civilian populations are exposed to severe and longlasting indirect effects – also referred to as ‘reverberating effects’. Many of these indirect effects stem from damage to or destruction of critical civilian infrastructure. When critical civilian infrastructure, such as energy, food, water and sanitation systems, are damaged or destroyed the provision of basic needs and essential services, such as healthcare and education are, disrupted.
These services are often interconnected and, as a result, damage to one component or service can negatively affect services elsewhere, causing harm to civilians that can extend far beyond a weapon’s impact area.
1.3. The destruction of housing, schools and cultural heritage sites further aggravates civilian suffering, and the natural environment can also be impacted by the use of explosive weapons, leading to the contamination of air, soil, water, and other resources. The use of explosive weapons in populated areas can also result in psychological and psychosocial harm to civilians.
1.4 These effects often result in the displacement of people within and across borders, and have a severe impact on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Following the conduct of hostilities, unexploded ordnance impede the return of displaced persons and cause casualties long after hostilities have ended.
1.5 Many militaries already implement operational policies and practices designed to avoid, and in any event minimize, civilian harm, which include a detailed understanding of the anticipated effects of explosive weapons on a military target and its surrounding areas and the associated risk to civilians in populated areas. However, there is scope for practical improvements to achieve the full and universal implementation of, and compliance with, obligations under International Humanitarian Law, and the application and sharing of good practices. Broadening and strengthening initiatives designed to share military policies and practices on protecting civilians can support the promotion and better implementation of International Humanitarian Law.
1.6 We recognise the importance of efforts to record and track civilian casualties, and the use of all practicable measures to ensure appropriate data collection, including, where feasible, data disaggregated by sex and age. Where feasible, this data should be shared and made publicly available. Improved data on civilian casualties would help to inform policies designed to avoid, and in any event minimize, civilian harm, aid efforts to investigate harm to civilians, support efforts to determine or establish accountability and enhance lessons learnt processes in armed forces.
1.7 We stress the imperative of addressing the short and long-term humanitarian consequences resulting from armed conflict involving the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. We welcome the on-going work of the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and civil society on the impacts and long-term humanitarian consequences arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
1.7bis We also welcome work to empower and amplify the voices of all those affected, including women and girls, and we encourage further research into the gendered impacts of the use of explosive weapons.