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Minimizing the impact of explosive remnants of war on civilian populations

05-11-2007 Statement

Statement of the International Committee of the Red Cross to the First Meeting of States Parties to the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War, 5 November 2007

The First Meeting of States Parties to the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War is an important opportunity to continue the international community's efforts to end the great human suffering caused by explosive remnants of war. These efforts began in the context of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons more than 7 years ago and culminated with the adoption of the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War in November 2003. The Protocol's conclusion and entry into force were significant developments of international humanitarian law and a substantial strengthening of the CCW.

In our view, this Protocol - which addresses all munitions used, the provision of all relevant information, clearance and assistance to victims of existing explosive remnants of war – is the most ambitious project yet undertaken by CCW States Parties. If implemented fully and in the spirit of solving together an important humanitarian problem, it can make a real difference on the ground 

With the Protocol now binding international law for some 35 States Parties, work can now begin towards making it an effective instrument on the ground. The ICRC views this First Meeting of States Parties as an essential step in helping the Protocol achieve its humanitarian objectives and to minimize the impact of ERW on civilian populations in war affected countries. As we have said in the past, this meeting will be a chance for States Parties to focus on the Protocol's practical implementation and should be used to determine how best to promote “operationalization " the Protocol's obligations. 

The recommendations of the Preparatory Committee and the papers prepared by the P resident of the Conference outline proposals, reporting formats and a template which can facilitate these objectives. National reporting requirements, recommendations on the exchange of information and the creation of an ERW database will be helpful in promoting and evaluating the state of implementation of Protocol V.

Particularly valuable, in our view, are the recommendations to convene informal meetings of experts to look at the Protocol's operational aspects. Such meetings will be useful to examine the " nuts and bolts " of the Protocol and, in particular, to highlight the specific national measures required to ensure that a State is in a position to undertake its obligations when involved in an armed conflict. Informal expert meetings would allow States Parties to share experiences on the kinds of measures required and any challenges encountered in putting them into operation.

Equally important will be the role these meetings can play in addressing the massive problem of existing ERW. Existing ERW is perhaps the single most important issue which States Parties can address in the foreseeable future. The response of States Parties to the problem of existing ERW will be crucial in determining whether the Protocol is seen as a living instrument relevant to suffering which is caused by ERW today. Informal meetings can be valuable in engaging affected States about the impact of ERW on their territory, their efforts and plans to remedy the situation and their needs and priorities for assistance. A robust and effective process can also attract non-party States to adhere to the Protocol and, if they are not already a State Party, to the CCW more generally. 

In closing, the decisions taken today will set the course for future work on explosive remnants of war. They are only a start, but nevertheless can establish the framework for further action, analysis and clearance of ERW. More importantly, action by this meeting will be a s ignal to affected countries and, in particular, the civilians who live with the daily threat of these weapons, that States Parties are determined to reduce the suffering caused by explosive remnants of war and to bring relief to victims, their families and their communities as well as preventing similar situations from occurring in the future. We urge all States which are no yet parties, particularly all those which were involved in the negotiation of this Protocol, to adhere to this instrument as a matter of urgency.