Austria Participates in Conference to Strengthen Protection Against Explosive Weapons

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: November 20, 2022; 23:34 ♦ (Vindobona)

The high-level international conference to sign the Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences of the Use of Explosive Weapons in Inhabited Areas was held in Dublin. Austria was also represented at this conference.

Between January 2022 and September 2022, approximately 15,000 civilians have been killed or injured by explosive weapons, such as landmines. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / U.S. Army photo by Spc. Derek Gaines [Public Domain]

Austria, represented at the conference by a delegation led by Ambassador Alexander Kmentt, joined some 80 other states in making a clear commitment to protecting civilians in urban conflicts and strengthening the implementation of international humanitarian law.

"I am proud of today's adoption of a Political Declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas," said Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg. Vienna was the venue for the conference that initiated this process in 2019.

Protecting civilians in urban wars has long been a priority of Austrian foreign policy. Therefore, Austria hosted the first global conference on this topic in 2019. Based on this "Vienna Conference on the Protection of Civilians in Urban War Zones," a Political Declaration was drafted with Austria's leading participation. At today's conference, Ambassador Alexander Kmentt emphasized the importance of this process to alleviate the massive suffering of civilians, the humanitarian as well as the long-term consequences of explosive weapons.

"This political declaration is a milestone for humanitarian disarmament and the protection of civilians. It is also a powerful example of what the collective efforts of States, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and its National Societies, as well as other international and regional organizations and civil society can achieve together," Ambassador Alexander Kmentt stressed in his speech at the conference.

The declaration strongly condemns direct attacks against civilians and civilian targets and provides for measures to systematically address the impact of the use of explosive weapons on civilians and to prevent, mitigate or mitigate it as much as possible. Regular implementation meetings are planned to agree on the implementation of the agreed measures and objectives. As a signatory state and core group member, Austria will actively promote the universalization and implementation of the declaration.

Globally, some 15,000 civilians have been killed or injured by explosive weapons in 30 countries from 2022 through September. As warfare has increasingly shifted to populated areas, on average 90% of victims of explosive weapons in populated areas are already civilians, around half of them children. In addition to death, incurable injuries and psychological traumatization, the use of explosive weapons leads to the massive destruction of civilian infrastructure and, subsequently, to conflict-induced migration. The long-term socioeconomic consequences are also massive, and even after a conflict ends, explosive remnants of war prevent civilians from returning safely.

Currently, the importance of protection from explosive weapons is particularly evident when looking at Ukraine. For 268 days, Ukrainian civilians have suffered from indiscriminate shelling of towns and villages, targeted attacks on energy infrastructure, and the use of killer drones and anti-personnel mines. Civilians in Syria, Iraq, Myanmar, Libya, Yemen, and Sri Lanka have also recently suffered from the use of explosive weapons. The long-term consequences caused by explosive remnants of war are visible, for example, in Colombia, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cambodia.