Safeguarding Essential Services: Addressing Indirect Effects of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas

When explosive weapons are used in populated areas, the direct impact of such weapons' blast and fragmentation is immediate: civilian casualties, injuries, and damage to buildings. Yet, there are less visible but equally devastating consequences known as "indirect" or "reverberating" effects, cascading from the direct impact of an attack.

These can unfold over the short, mid, or long term, causing widespread suffering, especially when powerful explosives are involved. The interconnectedness of essential services in populated areas, such as water supply, electricity, sanitation and health care, means that disrupting one can have a ripple effect on others.

In November 2022, a significant step was taken with the adoption of the Political Declaration on Protecting Civilians from the Consequences of Explosive Weapons. This declaration acknowledges the serious indirect effects of explosive weapon use on essential services in populated areas and commits endorsing states to take meaningful actions to mitigate the suffering in entails for civilians.

In October 2023, the ICRC organized a meeting of experts to discuss how to implement the commitments outlined in the Political Declaration. Some 21 military experts from 17 states that have endorsed the Political Declaration, alongside representatives from the ICRC, the UN, other international organizations and civil society, and independent experts, came together to explore practical strategies for addressing these challenges.

The following ICRC recommendations are informed not only by the views shared at the October 2023 expert meeting but also by the ICRC's own experience and analysis. As such, the recommendations presented below go beyond the good practices discussed at the expert meeting. Their aim is to present a range of possible measures for States to consider and work towards over the coming years as they implement their commitments under the political declaration, both during and after armed conflicts.

Indirect Effects of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas - ICRC Recommendations - Apr 2024

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