80 countries just signed a declaration on protecting civilians in war

If it’s not a binding treaty, how can it influence military action? Here’s what research tells us.
Ukraine citizen
Photo Credit: accessed via Wikimedia Commons

As Russia’s war against Ukraine illustrates, civilians often bear the brunt of suffering in conflict — sometimes directly killed or saddled with lifelong injuries, and sometimes from the destruction of critical infrastructure like hospitals, power plants and sanitation systems needed to survive. International laws of war prohibit targeting civilians — but often fail to protect them in practice.

How can this be stopped? Ireland recently organized the development of a multilateral declaration aimed at better protecting civilians from explosive weapons in populated areas. While it’s not a legally binding treaty, this declaration includes new guidelines developed to improve how international humanitarian law gets put into practice. Eighty countries, including the United States, signed this declaration in Dublin on Nov. 18.

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