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USG Set to Sign Declaration on Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, Prioritizing Protection of Children in Conflict Settings

Washington, DC (November 17, 2022) – Tomorrow, the U.S. government is set to sign the “Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas” – also known as the political declaration on EWIPA. This declaration recognizes the importance of better protecting children from harm in conflict settings.

“Signing this declaration is a welcome and needed step by the U.S. government to better protect children, underscoring the protection of civilians in conflict settings as a policy priority,” said Allyson Neville, Senior Advisor of Humanitarian Policy at Save the Children. “But, as important as this declaration is, it will mean little without robust implementation. We strongly urge the U.S. government to ensure that schools and hospitals are protected, to work to better understand and mitigate the ways in which children are specifically harmed by conflict, and to take a leadership role in working with other nations to do the same.”

As noted in the declaration’s preamble, in addition to the direct, physical devastation caused by explosive weapons, “civilian populations, particularly children, are exposed to severe and long-lasting indirect effects – often referred to as reverberating effects. Many of these effects stem from damage to or destruction of critical civilian infrastructure.” For example, in Ukraine, an estimated 2.6 million students are learning from home as of October 22because many schools lack protective shelters, have been damaged or destroyed, or remain under threat of attack. But, according to a Save the Children survey, their at-home education is suffering due to reoccurring attacks on power plants, leaving more than 4.5 million households without electricity.  

“We see time and time again how children are disproportionately harmed by conflict – and it’s unacceptable,” continued Neville. “The U.S. government has an undeniably pivotal leadership role to play in protecting these children and families. Words must be turned into action – children’s lives and wellbeing are at stake.” 

Efforts to implement the political declaration on EWIPA should be incorporated into ongoing U.S. government initiatives to better protect civilians. Strategic next steps for the U.S. government should include endorsing and implementing important initiatives like the Safe Schools Declaration, increasing transparency around civilian harm, strengthening training on civilian harm mitigation for U.S. and partner forces, capturing lessons learned from past instances of civilian harm, and strengthening accountability mechanisms in cases of civilian harm by the U.S. military or partners.

Save the Children – together with its political advocacy arm, Save the Children Action Network – will continue to work with the U.S. government to ensure these next steps are taken, and will continue to advocate on behalf of children and families around the world to ensure they are protected.

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