GENEVA / EXPLOSIVE WEAPONS

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16-Jun-2022 00:02:21
A UN-partnered bid to address the use of explosive weapons in towns and cities took a further step forward on Thursday, as Member States prepared to gather in Geneva to examine a concrete new plan of action. UNTV CH

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STORY: GENEVA / EXPLOSIVE WEAPONS
TRT: 2:21
SOURCE: UNTV CH
RESTRICTIONS: NONE
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS

DATELINE: 16 JUNE 2022, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

SHOTLIST:

1. Med shot, Palais des Nations flag alley, nations’ flags moving gently in the wind, a lovely day.
2. Med shot, press room with participant in foreground, speakers seated at podium.
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Dominique Gassauer, Humanitarian Affairs Officer, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):
“Today, some 50 million people are estimated to be living in situations of urban conflict or at the threat of urban conflict and are exposed to the acute risks and dangers posed by these weapons. So, the political declaration tomorrow that will be presented by Ireland that has been stewarding this process for the last three years is going to be a key step to step up on the protection of civilians.”
4. Med shot, participants sitting in front of laptop and looking at mobile phone.
5. SOUNDBITE (English) Eirini Giorgou, Legal Advisor, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC):
“This political declaration establishes a framework for further work among States and it signals there is political will, there is determination to take action to address this problem that States recognise as an urgent concern and the need to better protect civilians.”
6. Close up, journalist’s hand holding pen, laptop and coffee cup coming into focus.
7. SOUNDBITE (English) Dominique Gassauer, Humanitarian Affairs Officer, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):
“Last year, some 1,234 incidents involving the use of explosive weapons in populated areas were recorded in 21 States affected by conflict, causing death or injury of over 10,000 people; 89 per cent of those were civilians.”
8. Med shot, podium speakers.
9. SOUNDBITE (English) Eirini Giorgou, Legal Advisor, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC):
“This may surprise you to hear this, but even in populated areas, explosive weapons with wide area effects can be used in accordance with international humanitarian law, but now – with a very big but – this is extremely difficult to achieve.”
10. Med shot, participants seated in foreground, a wall of books forms the backdrop.
11. SOUNDBITE (English) Laura Boillot, Coordinator, International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW):
“We need to see restrictions put in place on the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas. We are particularly concerned about weapon systems that impact a wide area: heavy aircraft bombs, rockets, missiles, artillery; these are heavy weapons that are often inaccurate, outdated and were designed for use in open battlefields. They are wholly inappropriate for use in towns and cities.”
12. Med shot, participants listening to podium speaker.
13. SOUNDBITE (English) Laura Boillot, Coordinator, International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW):
“Over the past decade there have been incidents in 123 different countries, so this is really a very widespread and severe problem.”
14. Wide shot, press room with podium speakers flanked by TV screens.
15. Med shot, participants in foreground and to rear, along with podium speakers.

STORYLINE:

A UN-partnered bid to address the use of explosive weapons in towns and cities took a further step forward on Thursday (16 Jun), as Member States prepared to gather in Geneva to examine a concrete new plan of action.

The development has been driven by the recognition that civilians are at increased risk from armed conflicts that have become more protracted, complex and urbanised.

The weapons that continue to be used in urban settings are totally unsuited to heavily built-up areas, a fact highlighted by the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on the protection of civilians, which first urged combatants not to use explosive weapons in such settings in 2009, said Dominique Gassauer, Humanitarian Affairs Officer, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Today, some 50 million people are estimated to be living in situations of urban conflict or at the threat of urban conflict and are exposed to the acute risks and dangers posed by these weapons,” she said. “So, the political declaration tomorrow that will be presented by Ireland that has been stewarding this process for the last three years is going to be a key step to step up on the protection of civilians.”

Last year, more than 1,200 incidents involving the use of explosive weapons in populated areas were recorded in 21 States affected by conflict, causing death or injury of over 10,000 people, the OCHA official noted. Nearly 90 per cent of the victims were civilians, underscoring the need for updated international norms on the use of these weapons.

“This may surprise you to hear this, but even in populated areas, explosive weapons with wide area effects can be used in accordance with international humanitarian law, but …this is extremely difficult to achieve,” said Eirini Giorgou, Legal Advisor, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

She added: “This political declaration establishes a framework for further work among States and it signals there is political will, there is determination to take action to address this problem that States recognise as an urgent concern and the need to better protect civilians.”

Echoing that message, civil society actor the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) noted that there was particular concern about weapon systems “that impact a wide area: heavy aircraft bombs, rockets, missiles, artillery; these are heavy weapons that are often inaccurate, outdated and were designed for use in open battlefields,” said Laura Boillot, INEW Coordinator. “They are wholly inappropriate for use in towns and cities.”

Over the past decade there have been incidents involving explosive weapons in urban settings in 123 different countries, “so this is really a very widespread and severe problem”, Ms. Boillot said.

She added that the issue of explosive weapons destruction had been “highly contested” by many unnamed States, before recalling that for over 100 years, explosive weapons had been the “weapons of choice”, not least in carpet-bombing cities during World War II.

But mindsets changed on the use of such destructive weapons after that conflict, Ms. Boillot noted, adding that international pressure for new limits of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas were signalled in international meetings in Maputo in 2017 and in Santiago in 2018.

The “Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences arising from the use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas” is to be presented to Member States at the Palace of Nations on Friday 17 June. About 60 delegations are expected to take part in the consultations ahead of a formal signing ceremony later in the year.

If the Final Declaration text is adopted as it stands, it is expected that the UN, the ICRC and civil society will be involved in putting it into effect, said Ms. Giorgou.
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