Handicap International organized the 28th edition of the Shoe Pyramid in 14 towns in France. Animations were organized to raise public awareness of the ravages of explosive devices among civilian populations around the world.
“Every 20 minutes, in the world, a civilian is wounded or killed by a bomb or an explosive weapon targeting an urban area”. Handicap International has been mobilizing for 28 years, almost three decades around this event, to help the victims of wars. As every year, the public was invited to drop off shoes forming a pyramid, a symbol of all the mutilated victims.
The first edition, of the Shoe Pyramid, debuted in 1995, aimed to denounce the use of anti-personnel mines that kill or injure soldiers or civilians indiscriminately in times of war and peace. Since 2015, with the support of 19 other NGOs, a new campaign has been launched to “end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas”.
The 28th Shoe Pyramids are organized by the NGO Handicap International throughout the month of September to denounce the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
As the signing conference nears to conclude three years of negotiations to reach an international agreement against explosive weapons against civilians, Handicap International encourages massive citizen mobilization to “put pressure on States”. “Symbol of the number of lives broken or lost”, the shoes in good condition will also be sold in solidarity shops. The others will be used to make new raw materials or new objects, and the non-recyclable part will become an alternative fuel.
This diplomatic process began three years ago at the Vienna conference in October 2019. The goal is to develop an international agreement that will strengthen the protection of civilians in war zones. Handicap International and the 19 other NGOs have constantly discussed with States the need for an agreement which should effectively put an end to the suffering linked to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
The massive and repeated use of these weapons in populated areas is one of the main causes of protracted humanitarian crises, and civilians are the main victims. 90% of people killed and injured by explosive weapons in populated areas are civilians. Those injured risk lifelong disabilities and severe psychological trauma.
The pyramid must break records of size, the objective to collect 10 tons of shoes. A record that will support the negotiations started three years ago to reach an international agreement against explosive weapons against civilians. Pressure on States, the year of the war in Ukraine.
They are currently under heavy bombardment, which regularly involves prohibited weapons such as cluster munitions. At least 8,000 civilians have been killed or injured since the war began on February 24, but the actual numbers are certainly much higher, “most recorded civilian casualties have been caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide range area, including heavy artillery and multiple rocket launcher bombardments, and missile and air strikes.”
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres seems to agree. In its annual report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict of May 18, 2022, it recognizes the “urgent need” for the parties to the conflict “to avoid the use of explosive weapons with a wide range of action in areas populated”. Secretary Guterres also acknowledges the “ripple effects on essential services such as water, sanitation, electricity and health care” caused by bombardments in populated areas. In his report, Secretary António Guterres expresses his support for “continuing efforts towards a political declaration to resolve this problem”. “Such a statement should include a clear commitment by states to avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide area effect in populated areas.”
Handicap International celebrated 40 years of humanitarian action this year and ended their tours on September 24 in Paris and Lyon.