FEEDBACK – HI at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly First Committee

Posted by: on Oct 28, 2019 | No Comments

Humanity & Inclusion was in NY (US), to encourage states to join the joint statement on the use of explosive weapons delivered by Ireland during the debate on conventional weapons of the UN General Assembly’s 1st Committee.

HI was present to observe the thematic debate on conventional weapons of the UNGA 1st Committee and do some outreach to encourage states to join the joint statement on the use of explosive weapons delivered by Ireland and eventually endorsed by 71 states.

But what is the UNGA 1st Committee, what did HI do there, what happened before and what will happen next? Here below a snapshot of some of our past, current and future advocacy activities related to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas – EWIPA.

What are the UNGA Committees?

There are six main Committees of the General Assembly and each committee deals with a particular topic: disarmament and international security; economic and financial matters; social, humanitarian and cultural matters, including human rights; special political and decolonization matters, including peacekeeping; administrative and budgetary matters; legal matters.

What is the 1st committee about?   

The First Committee works on disarmament and international security. Within this framework, States discuss their positions on disarmament-related issues and share their views on principles, norms, tools and language. The ultimate aim is achieving consensus on specific disarmament-related issues and feed the debate, inside and outside the UN. 

Why HI attended the committee?

H.E. Ambassador Géraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations, delivering a statement at the UNGA's 1st Committee.

H.E. Ambassador Géraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations, delivering a statement at the UNGA’s 1st Committee.

HI attended the 74th session of the UN General Assembly First Committee to bring the subject back to the attention of States, encourage states to join the joint statement on the use of explosive weapons delivered by Ireland during the conventional weapons debate and ask them to speak about the humanitarian impacts from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in their national statements. During the more than 20 bilateral meetings held, HI also handed over several copies ofThe Waiting List’, a very comprehensive study highlighting the devastating consequences of the use of EWIPA on Syrian civilians and the specific challenges faced by humanitarian actors for providing victim assistance in this context.

We implemented our advocacy actions in close coordination with other members of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) that resulted into an impressive mobilization and 71 states endorsed the Joint Statement on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas.

By delivering the Joint Statement [that you can read here], H.E. Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations, expressed grave concern at the humanitarian impact resulting from the way active hostilities are conducted in populated areas and in particular by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects. In addition, Ireland and other 70 states recognized the elaboration of a political declaration as a way to ensure compliance to IHL among the measures designed to address the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons in populated areas. This year marked a second success following the 2018 joint statement that had already been endorsed by 50 states.

What had happened before?

HI, as a member of the INEW, co-organized one regional meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, in 2017. 19 African States attended the meeting that ended with the adoption of the Maputo Communiqué. This event was followed in 2018 by a second regional meeting held in Santiago, Chile, where 23 states gathered for a two discussion also ended with the adoption of the Santiago Communiqué. By adopting these communiqués, 42 states from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean jointly committed to “avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas and fully support the process that will lead to the negotiation and adoption of an international political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas”.

EWIPA has also been a concern raised of The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, and the President of the ICRC, Peter Maurer, who have issued a joint appeal earlier this year.

On October 1st and 2nd, a two-day international Conference on the Protection of Civilians in Urban Warfare took place and over 130 states alongside international and civil society organizations gathered in Austria and focused on the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, the legal context and examples of good military practice for the first time.

What’s next?                                                                               

Following the International Conference held in Vienna, Ireland will convene an open-ended consultation to start working on an international political declaration on EWIPA from November onwards. Discussions will take place in Geneva where parties will discuss key elements of a political declaration ahead of its adoption in 2020. Ahead of these consultations, HI calls on states to draft and adopt the strongest possible humanitarian instrument that will provide an effective tool for addressing the humanitarian concerns from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.  

Timeline of the political process towards an international political declaration on EWIPA

Timeline of the political process towards an international political declaration on EWIPA