FEEDBACK – EWIPA Talks: let’s go for a second round!

Posted by: on Sep 17, 2018 | No Comments

Targeting policies, weaponeering, information gathering and military decision making process but also victim assistance among the topics discussed in Geneva during the dialogue on Explosive Weapons In Populated Areas (EWIPA).

Last Wednesday Germany, supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), convened a meeting at the UN in Geneva to stimulate a reflection among States Representatives and Civil Society Organisations on how to minimise the humanitarian impact of the use of EWIPA. The event followed the first EWIPA talks held last June and counted on the participation of Delegates from several States, relevant UN organisations and non-governmental organisations. The International Network on explosive Weapons (INEW), was an active participant thanks to the several interventions raised during the day by its members and a panel including presentation of Humanity & Inclusion (HI), and Norwegian People Aid (NPA).


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A session chaired by Mr. Wolfgang Richter, Senior Associate at Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, SWP, opened the day. On this occasion participants discussed the requirements regarding targeting policy in populated areas and the capabilities needed, including the aspect of weaponeering. Excessive use of EWIPA, importance of compliance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL) principles, improved targeting processes, damage assessments and need to avoid failures were among the issues debated. Some Delegates were particularly vocal in stressing the importance of respecting IHL while other States Representatives explained which are the practices adopted by their military forces before and during targeting. Despite the fact that some States offered food for thoughts to develop sound policies and standards bound to protect civilians, many others remained silent. HI encourages the whole international community to actively participate in the debate and share the military experience in order to develop common policies and standards to be adopted in the context of EWIPA. On this matter, the UNOCHA representative made a commendable statement when reminding that:

“Targeting processes cannot only be effective in military terms but also in civilian terms”

The second session, chaired by Ms. Sahr Muhammedally from the Center of Civilians in Conflict, CIVIC, provided the framework to discuss requirements and capabilities needed for gathering, processing and distributing information for the military decision making process, including assessing foreseeable collateral damage. States Representatives discussed how artificial intelligence, visual sensors, human and signal intelligence can help understanding where civilians are and improve information gathering. The debate went even further raising the issue of how fast an assessment can be done while fighting. Once again, interesting topics have emerged even if a more intense exchange could have enriched the reflection. UNOCHA Representative highlighted how local civilian sources are crucial to conduct a full assessment while Ms. Muhammedally reminded that it is crucial to keep debating this issue since:

“Several challenges hinder the accuracy of information gathering”

A third vibrant session animated the last part of the talks. The panel was chaired by Austrian Ambassador Tichy-Fisslberger who gave the floor to Alma Al Osta (HI), Colin Bent (NPA) and Ruben Stewart, an expert talking in his personal capacity. The panellists gave field oriented speeches on the importance of victim assistance, building community resilience through conflict preparedness as well as civil-military coordination in order to protect civilians. On the one hand, panellists had the opportunity to emphasize the human dimension of the use of EWIPA. On the other hand, States Representatives positively reacted to these presentations, appreciating the focus on victim assistance proposed by Alma Al Osta, Disarmament and Protection of Civilians Advocacy Manager, who stated:

“Rehabilitation is a continuum of care, starting in the immediate aftermath of injury and continuing through full inclusion into society”

Despite the positive results achieved over the past months and the inclusion of a panel on human impact, much remains to be done. The meeting of High Contracting Parties (HCP) of the Convention on Conventional Weapons in November this year will provide the perfect scenario to discuss once more the humanitarian impact of the use of EWIPA. In this sense, HI wishes that the report on possible political and operational conclusions will include clear recommendations on the need to fully recognize the importance of Victim Assistance. Explosive weapons are legally designed to kill, destroy and traumatize. Discussions on how to end unnecessary casualties and further destructions of civilian infrastructures are crucial and must remain at the centre of any debate on EWIPA.