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Latest news | Glasgow MP's speech to UN on protecting civilians in areas of conflict

Latest news

Glasgow MP's speech to UN on protecting civilians in areas of conflict

Colleagues, friends, it is a pleasure to be here with you this morning to discuss this important issue alongside my parliamentary counterparts from France and Belgium.

I also want to say at the outset that I am particularly pleased that my Irish neighbours have given this matter such prominence.

Although the world is sadly not short of examples of why we need more robust international norms and standards on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, our newspapers and TV screens are today filled with rolling reminders from Ukraine of why we must give this matter the utmost attention that it deserves.

I wish to focus my remarks on sections 3 and 4 of the draft text.

For a robust declaration, the text needs to be strengthened with an explicit commitment to tracking civilian harm.

As currently drafted, the text contains no specific requirement beyond a preamble and means that there will be a gap in information so significant that it currently risks undermining efforts to improve future operations and strategy.

The agreement would be strengthened with a commitment to establish capabilities to track, analyse, respond to and learn from incidents of civilian harm in real-time.

There is no possible reason that state militaries cannot build the capabilities and be required to do so.

It should include references to risk education on explosive remnants of war. It should ensure the marking, clearance, and removal or destruction of explosive ordinances as swiftly as possible at the end of hostilities and the provision of risk education. Often it is children that find these explosive remnants of war, whilst playing outside.

There must be a robust commitment on data sharing. As currently drafted, the caveat of ‘where appropriate’ gives me concern.

States should be committed to collecting and sharing information on civilian casualties and objects. As Russia’s current aggression in Ukraine shows us, accountability matters. The caveat - ‘where appropriate’ - allows states to be absolved of accountability.

There should be an explicit commitment to collect and record the locations targeted by explosive weapons, the number of weapons used, and the general location of known and probable unexploded ordinances.

Colleagues, we have a chance here over the next 48 hours to reach an agreement that matches the moment we find ourselves in.

As we convene here at the Palace of Nations, ask yourself what you want them to hear of this gathering in Bucha, in Kherson, in Kharkiv or in Mariupol.

At a time when the international order designed to keep us free and at peace is under unprecedented assault and strain, those of us who believe in that order must continue to give it the new life it needs to succeed.

Accountability matters.

I beseech you - and especially those representing the UK Government - to achieve an agreement that meets the moment of today.

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