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Austria Participates in Conference to Increase Protection from Explosive Weapons

AUSTRIA, November 17 - A high-level international conference to adopt the Political Declaration on strengthening the protection of civilians from the humanitarian consequences arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas was held in Dublin on 18  November 2022. Austria, represented by a delegation led by Ambassador Alexander Kmentt, joined about 80 other countries in declaring its clear support for protecting civilians in urban conflicts, and for 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. After all, Austria set this process in motion with a conference in Vienna in 2019,

 said Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

Protecting civilians during urban wars has long been a priority for Austrian foreign policy, and it is the reason that Austria organised the first global conference on this topic in 2019. On the basis of that “Vienna Conference on the protection of civilians in urban war zones”, a Political Declaration was developed, with Austria as the leading collaborator. During today’s conference, Ambassador Alexander Kmentt emphasised the importance of this process for reducing the massive suffering of the civilian population, as well as the humanitarian and long-term effects of explosive weapons.

This Political Declaration is a milestone for humanitarian disarmament and civilian protection. It is also an impressive example of what can be achieved through the collective efforts of countries, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and its national societies, as well as other international and regional organisations and civil society,

said Ambassador Alexander Kmentt during his speech at the conference.

The Declaration sharply condemns direct attacks on civilians and civil targets; it provides measures for systematically addressing the consequences of explosive weapons on the civilian population, while preventing, containing, or reducing these wherever possible. Regular implementation meetings are planned in order to implement the agreed measures and to set targets. As a signatory state and a member of the core group, Austria will actively work towards universalising and implementing the Declaration.

As of September 2022, around 15,000 civilians in 30 countries worldwide have been killed or injured by explosive weapons this year. Because warfare has increasingly moved into populated areas, an average of 90% of the victims of explosive weapons in populated areas are civilians, around half of them children. In addition to death, permanent injuries, and psychological trauma, the use of explosive weapons causes enormous damage to civil infrastructure and leads to conflict-related migration. The long-term socio-economic effects are also enormous, and even after the end of the conflict, explosive remnants of war prevent civilians from returning safely.

The importance of protection against explosive weapons is particularly clear now in light of Ukraine. For 268 days, the Ukrainian civilian population has suffered from indiscriminate shelling of cities and towns, targeted attacks on the energy infrastructure, and the use of killer drones and anti-personnel mines. The civilian population in Syria, Iraq, Myanmar, Libya, Yemen, and Sri Lanka has also recently suffered from the use of explosive weapons. The long-term effects of remnants of war can be seen, for instance, in Colombia, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cambodia.