The United States—whose military has killed more foreign civilians than any other armed force on the planet since the end of World War II—on Friday joined 79 other nations in signing a declaration aimed at protecting civilians from explosive weapons in populated areas.
The signing of the declaration at the Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas (EWIPA) Conference in Dublin, Ireland follows three years of international negotiations. While the U.S., U.K., France, and 20 other NATO members signed the agreement, major military powers including Russia, China, India, and Israel did not.
The declaration’s signatories committed to “strengthening the protection of civilians and civilian objects during and after armed conflict, addressing the humanitarian consequences arising from armed conflict involving the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and strengthening compliance with and improving the implementation of applicable international humanitarian law.”
Laura Boillot, the coordinator for the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), which includes 49 advocacy groups, said that “this declaration sends a clear message that using explosive weapons in populated areas causes unacceptable civilian suffering and devastation and must stop.”
“It is time for all states to endorse and implement the declaration to help civilians and their communities during and after conflict,” she added.
The declaration requires states to impose limits on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, which is the leading cause of harm to civilians in conflicts today. It also requires states to assist victims and affected communities both during and after conflict and to address the long-term suffering that stems from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
Of note, of the 80 countries who signed up to the declaration, 57 have witnessed explosive violence in their own territories since 2010. Over two-thirds of explosive violence incidents witnessed by the signatory countries were in populated areas, and in those incidents 87% of victims have been civilians—almost 25,000 people.
The declaration comes as unmanned aerial drone and other airstrikes by U.S. forces continue in nations including Afghanistan, Somalia, and Syria during the 21-year, open-ended War on Terror—in which more than 387,000 civilians have been killed, according to the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.
Originally published at Commondreams.org.