13 November 2006

New International Agreement Protects Civilians from Explosive Remnants of War

GENEVA, 13 November 2006 -- A new international agreement requiring states parties and parties to armed conflicts to take remedial measures to mark and clear, remove or destroy unexploded ordnance or abandoned explosive ordnance as early as possible after the end of hostilities entered into force yesterday.

The new "Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War," which forms part of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, provides a significant legal basis for efforts to protect civilian populations and humanitarian missions and organizations in conflict zones. When active hostilities cease, parties to this agreement must share information on their use of explosive ordnance with those in a position to provide risk education or carry out marking and clearance in affected areas.

The United Nations has long been providing services to clean up landmines and explosive remnants of war through its mine action programmes around the world. According to Max Gaylard, Director of the United Nations Mine Action Service, "The Protocol will help to arm us with crucial information, and that will help us prevent civilian casualties."

The Protocol calls on states parties and parties to armed conflict to provide information on the location of explosive remnants of war to humanitarian missions and organizations.  "This is welcomed by all of us at the United Nations," Gaylard says. "UN and other humanitarian organization staff often deploy to areas affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war and we will appreciate the additional protection afforded by this agreement.  In Baghdad, for example, explosive remnants of war were used to bomb the UN offices in 2003. I encourage all countries to ratify and comply with the treaty."

Protocol V to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

What is Protocol V?

Protocol V is a component of an international treaty, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which imposes specific prohibitions or restrictions on the use of certain conventional weapons that are deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects.  These prohibitions and restrictions are set out in Protocol V and four other protocols. Protocol V covers explosive remnants of war ("ERW"), defined as "unexploded ordnance and abandoned explosive ordnance."

What does the Protocol say about clean-up of ERW?

"After cessation of hostilities and as soon as feasible, each state party and party to an armed conflict shall, inter alia, (i) survey and assess the threat posed by ERW; and (ii) mark and clear, remove or destroy ERW." 

What are the provisions for record-keeping?

"Parties shall record and retain information on the use of explosive ordnance and provide relevant information to the party in control of territory and to civilian populations in that area.  After cessation of hostilities, parties shall make such information available to parties in control of an affected area bilaterally or through a mutually agreed third party [such as the United Nations] or, upon request, to other relevant organizations…"

How does the Protocol protect civilians and humanitarian workers from ERW?

"Parties shall take all feasible precautions to protect civilians and civilian objects from the risks and effects of ERW in areas under their control….Parties shall (i) protect, as far as feasible, humanitarian missions and organizations from ERW in areas under their control (ii) upon request provide information on the location of ERW."

How can States Parties obtain international assistance?

"Parties have the right to seek and receive assistance from other parties in dealing with ERW…Each party in a position to do so shall provide assistance for (i) the marking and clearance, removal or destruction of ERW and for risk education and related activities and (ii) victims of ERW.  Such assistance may be provided through the United Nations system, other international, regional or national organizations.  Parties in a position to do so shall contribute to UN trust funds and similar funds…"

Which are the countries that have agreed to abide by Protocol V?

Countries participating in Protocol V so far are Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, El Salvador, Finland, Germany, the Holy See, India, Liberia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan and Ukraine.

When does Protocol V go into force?

On November 12, 2006-six months after the day at least 20 countries had formally agreed to be bound by the Protocol's terms.

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For further information, contact:

New York
Richard Kollodge
United Nations Mine Action Service
Tel: +1-212 963-5677
Email: kollodge@un.org

Gustavo Laurie
Tel: +41-22 917-2262
Email: glaurie@unog.ch