As governments commit to Stop Bombing Civilians… what next?

Today is a landmark day. 

Today governments from around the world are in Dublin to sign a political declaration ‘on strengthening the protection of civilians from the humanitarian consequences arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas’.

In short, to stop bombing civilians.

Every Casualty is part of a brilliant coalition INEW which has campaigned, cajoled and argued for this for over a decade.

I was chatting to one of our supporters the other day who found it hard to believe that we even needed to campaign for something like this. To have to say #StopBombingCivilians. I know – I struggle with it too.

Yet as the last bloody decade (in both senses) in Syria shows, the nature of conflict has changed. Cities and urban areas have become the battlefields and civilians the overwhelming casualties. According to research by Casualty Recorders Network member Action on Armed Violence, when explosive weapons are used in populated areas 90% of casualties are civilians. 9 out of every 10.

Civilians are no longer the collateral damage of old war imaginings (indeed the whole idea of ‘acceptable’ collateral damage is a theme to pick up another time…). Civilians are the brunt bearers. They are the dead and the injured of modern war.  

Attending the conference, Nujeen Mustafa is an extraordinary disability rights advocate and a survivor who fled from Aleppo, Syria to Germany. Nujeen said:

Nobody thinks about people like me, with no place to hide. This leads to psychological trauma. I was 12, in a wheelchair and terrified, but there was nothing anyone could do”

Nujeen mustafa, disability rights advocate and survivor

It was a stark and necessary reminder of the importance of this declaration on real people’s lives. That this goes beyond these conference halls and the niceties of international diplomacy.

So today is a moment. A moment to celebrate the 80+ governments signing up to this political declaration. To acknowledge the huge amount of time, talent and skill put in by so many campaigners and allies for so long (with particular plaudits to Laura Boillot at Article 36 for her amazing work leading this coalition). 

It’s also a moment that needs to turn into momentum. We need more governments to sign the declaration. And, as like any law, a declaration is only as good as how it’s implemented. How well governments are held to account for their actions. What actually changes.

Implementing means limiting the effects of military operations on civilian infrastructure. It means restricting the use of explosive weapons in towns and cities. It means collecting better data to understand the true human impacts of explosive weapons.

At Every Casualty we commit to championing the role of casualty recording in the implementation and to work with others to make this happen.

Today marks the end of the beginning.

We’ll draw breath.

And we’ll go again…

Gavin Crowden

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