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Vienna Conference 1st & 2nd October: A crucial event to stop the bombing of civilians

Press release | London, 27th September 2019, 13:00 GMT

On October 1st and 2nd, Austria will gather States at a conference in Vienna to find a political solution to the harm caused to civilians by bombing and shelling in urban areas. This international conference is a crucial event to address the devastating humanitarian consequences of these practices. This recognition by States of the urgency to act is a first victory for civil society. Humanity & Inclusion (HI) – co-founder of the International Network of Explosive Weapons (INEW) – has been campaigning since 2011 against bombing in populated areas. This Vienna Conference gives civil society a unique opportunity to demand a commitment from states to end human suffering caused by the use of explosive weapons, to better protect civilians in war zones and to provide assistance to victims.

Bombing in populated areas in countries like Ukraine, Iraq, Syria and Yemen not only kills, injures and traumatises innocent civilians, it destroys vital civilian infrastructures like hospital and schools. With 9 in 10 victims in cities like Mosul (Iraq) or Raqqa (Syria) innocent civilians, enough is enough. States must put an end to the bombing of civilians.” says Aleema Shivji, Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion UK. “The Vienna Conference opens a historical diplomatic process. We, the civil society, have a unique opportunity to put an end to the devastating consequences of bombing and shelling that have become common practice in modern war. We call on citizens around the world to pressure their governments and ensure they will commit to a strong political declaration next week in Vienna. ” she adds.

15% of casualties in the First World War were civilians and 50% in the Second World War. Today war is waged in cities and 90% of the victims of bombing in populated areas are civilians. We cannot call this “collateral damage”. Since 2016, the cities of Aleppo, Raqqa, Mosul, Idlib and Donetsk have been literally flattened by massive, disproportionate and indiscriminate bombardments and shelling – tragic proof of a total disregard for civilian lives.

An estimated 80,000 people have been killed or injured by explosive weapons in Syria and 10.2 million people, roughly half the population of Syria, are now living with the dangers of explosive remnants of war. By the time Raqqa was liberated after a 4-month siege, 80% of the city had been razed to the ground.

HI just launched the report “The Waiting List: Addressing the immediate and long-term needs of victims of explosive weapons in Syria ” that exposes the devastating impact the use of explosive weapons is having in Syria. The name of the report refers to the never-ending waiting list Syrian men, women and children are trapped in to access their basic human rights: to walk again, to eat and drink, to play, to go to school, to work. The report is based on data and testimonies collected from humanitarian agencies, actors and patients across the whole region.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, issued last week an historical appeal highlighting the devastating impact of explosive weapons on the lives of civilians. They affirmed their strong support for a political declaration to end the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons. The statement was a turning point for the cause, calling on States to commit to find political solutions to this major humanitarian issue.

In the wake of the Vienna Conference, negotiations will lead to a draft political declaration to end the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. This diplomatic phase should close with another conference in early 2020, when the political declaration will open for endorsements. During all the process, HI and partners of INEW will dialogue with States to convince them to fully commit to the cause and support the adoption of a political declaration to prevent human suffering caused by the use of explosive weapons.  In order to put pressure on politicians and ensure that governments will engage to the cause HI calls for citizens’ support to mobilise parliamentarians in the United Kingdom, and ensure that the government will engage to the cause: Citizens are invited to write to their MPs on the  dedicated online platform.

This is a historical moment for the population living in conflicts. 20 years ago, HI and the International Campaign to Ban Landmine (ICBL) managed to ban landmines with the adoption of the Ottawa Treaty (1997). 10 years ago, together with the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) we managed to ban cluster munitions with the adoption of the Oslo Treaty (2008). Civil society has once again the opportunity to write history and to oblige states to better protect civilians in conflicts. HI’s fight remains the same: to protect civilians in armed conflicts.


  • Interviews with Aleema Shivji, Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion UK, available upon request
  • Please find below links to download the report:

> The Waiting List: Addressing the immediate and long-term needs of victims of explosive weapons in Syria (Full report - pdf, 18.2Mb)

> The Waiting List - Executive summary  (pdf, 2.7 Mb)

> The Waiting List - Types of injuries caused by explosive weapons (pdf, 1.41 Mb)

Press contact

Marlene Manning, Humanity & Inclusion UK
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +44 (0)870 774 3737

About Humanity & Inclusion

Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Humanity & Inclusion (the new name of Handicap International) is a charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside disabled and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.

Humanity & Inclusion is the new name of Handicap International.

Contact our
UK Press Team

Marlène Manning, Media Officer
Email: [email protected]
Mobile: +44 (0)7934 60 29 61
Tel.: +44 (0)870 774 3737