We recently interviwed Head of weapons advocacy at HI, Alma Al Osta, to find out more about the conference and why it has been organised.
What does this conference aim to achieve?
The aim of this conference is to raise awareness of the use of explosive weapons and the devastating humanitarian impact this has on local populations, and to share key information on this issue. HI hopes that these discussions will lead to the emergence of a group of African States who will be active in the development of a political declaration on ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas At the moment, only two African States - Mozambique and Senegal - are involved in this diplomatic process.
Who is going to attend the conference?
HI is expecting 35 representatives of 20 African States - Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Liberia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Togo, Uganda and Zambia - to attend. Five international NGOs and UN agencies are also expected to be there, along with the Foreign Minister of Mozambique.
Which subjects will be discussed at the conference?
Five subjects will be under discussion: the disastrous impact on civilians of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (injuries and trauma, the destruction of infrastructure and homes, population displacement and the like), the actors who use explosive weapons and the situations in which they use them; the various types of explosive weapons used (mines, anti-personnel mines, missiles, grenades and so on) and finally the legal framework, policies and practices required to better control the use of these weapons in populated areas.
Why choose the African continent?
Many African countries were and are still the locus of armed conflicts, including Chad, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria. They are among the worst affected by the use of explosive weapons and its impact on civilians. In addition, the African Union has made the protection of civilians one of its top priorities. African States also place an emphasis on the case-management of victims, hence HI’s decision to organise this conference in Africa. Lastly, action by African States on the world stage could have a real impact on improving the protection of conflict-affected people.
Africa has also experienced rapid urban growth in recent decades. These urban areas may one day be the scene of a conflict and the continent needs to consider the consequences of this, including the risk of explosive remnants of war in urban areas. At this conference, HI has set itself the task to raising the awareness of all actors able to take action against the use of explosive weapons.