One year and five months ago, states came together in Dublin to sign the Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas (EWIPA).   

Following almost three years of negotiations, 83 states endorsed the Declaration: the first international document recognising the serious harm caused to people when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, where 9 out of 10 of the people killed or injured by these weapons in populated areas are civilians.   

Last year, there was a 122% increase in the number of civilians killed by explosive weapons, reflecting the harrowing trend that the death, harm, and suffering caused by conflicts are on the rise. These tragic casualties serve as a reminder of how this Political Declaration, and its provisions to protect people affected by conflict, is needed now more than ever. As we see in some of the worst affected areas such Gaza, Ukraine, Sudan, Myanmar, Syria and elsewhere, conflicts are increasingly being fought in built up areas – towns and cities home to thousands, if yet millions, of ordinary citizens.

Not only do explosive weapons cause death and injury to people, but they also weaken or destroy critical infrastructure. This causes significant damage to water, fuel, food and aid supplies and contributes to looming famine, disease and further instability in many places. The dire situation in Gaza is one of the most pertinent examples of the reverberating effects explosive weapons can have, beyond the toll on human life. When explosive weapons are dropped, launched or fired, there is always a chance that they will not explode and be left behind as unexploded ordnance (UXO), prolonging suffering and putting people at risk for years or even decades. 


The Political Declaration is a starting point, not an end point. Tackling these crises and their reverberating effects – such as displacement, instability, and lack of access to essential services – needs solutions that see governments and civil society working together for a common goal and listening to communities most affected by these issues. When global food prices soar due to conflict, communities thousands of miles away feel the sting. The impact of conflict is entwined with people and our planet, and the solutions must be too. Making progress on this issue is critical to achieving our shared goal of saving lives and reducing the harm caused by conflict.  

At the time of the endorsement conferencein Dublin, over 6,500 MAG supporters signed our open letter urging world leaders to sign up to the Political Declaration and commit to protecting civilians in conflict. Many of those who joined us in our campaigning to encourage government and public support for the Declaration recognised just how important and relevant this is, and it remains just as important and relevant, as well as urgent today. When faced with the current crises and conflicts raging around the world, the uproar for peace is justifiably loud.   

We must channel our determination to uphold, justice, humanity, and compassion in all ways we can.   

On 23rd April, Norway will host the first international follow-up conference to review the implementation of the Political Declaration on EWIPA. This is a critical moment for endorsing states to proactively implement their commitments set out in the declaration, and for increased support to keep people safe, including through life-saving risk education lessons and the clearance and removal of explosive ordnance. 

Since the Political Declaration was adopted, conversations have been underway among endorsing states and campaigners – discussing how they can encourage more governments to join and commit to protecting civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. More states are expected to join the Political Declaration, bolstering international support for this important framework.  

EWIPA 2023 stats

An implementation framework has also been developed by the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) - of which MAG is a member – to provide governments and their armed forces with guiding questions and recommendations on the best way to implement the Political Declaration – in essence, turning policy to practice. In particular, next week, a series of activities will concern data collection and military policies and practices, which are essential fields for the effective implementation of the Declaration.

As with any new international framework, it takes time to see real change and progress. It is positive to see the instances of cooperation and implementation of the Declaration thus far. The very fact that states, civil society, and other stakeholders are coming together to review the declaration signifies support for its key principles, a spirit of partnership, and commitment to the expansion of protection of people and communities. But more states must join the Declaration and urgently implement it fully, to prevent the terrible humanitarian suffering caused by explosive weapons in populated areas.  

Addressing these challenges demands unified actions: Endorsing states should urge other governments to join so that the Political Declaration becomes universal.  

The EWIPA Declaration must be more than mere words on paper. It is the foundation to build new norms and expectations when wars are fought in towns, cities, and other populated areas. It has the potential to save countless lives.  

As the review conference in Oslo takes place in only a few days, it's time for states to step up, to pledge their unwavering commitment to strengthening the protection of civilians from the devastation of explosive weapons in populated areas. And not just commit with words, but to act decisively and effectively.

Read more about the people affected by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas below.