Armed conflicts are increasingly fought in urban centers. When explosive weapons are used in populated areas, over 90 per cent of victims are civilians – with children accounting for roughly half of them. Child survivors endure staggering physical injury and psychological trauma.
Since 2009, the UN Secretary-General has advocated for Member States to adopt a commitment to avoid the use of such weapons in populated areas. The Dublin Conference on 18 November 2022 was the crystallization of more than 12 years of advocacy with the adoption of a political declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas (EWIPA), moving the campaign to a new phase focused on continuing to increase the number of member states endorsing the declaration, as well as ensuring its progressive and meaningful implementation.
In 2022, UNICEF led a multimedia project to gather stories of children and families affected by explosive weapons in Ukraine to help bolster the case for a commitment to protect children in conflict.
SECURE A COMMITMENT TO AVOID THE USE OF EXPLOSIVE WEAPONS IN POPULATED AREAS by sending a clear message to governments, decision-makers, donor countries, and stakeholders from the child protection sector.
SPEAK OUT TO PROTECT CHILDREN IN CONFLICT by calling for accountability for the direct and indirect harm of EWIPA on children.
SHAPE THE NARRATIVE TO REFLECT THE IMPACT ON CHILDREN by increasing awareness of the reverberating impact of EWIPA on children and about the need to collect gender and age disaggregated data to better understand it.
Storytelling for Advocacy:
UNICEF partnered with international award-winning documentary photographer, filmmaker, and educator Diego Ibarra Sánchez, to produce the photo series and media pitches following field missions in Ukraine before the high-level summit.
A series of photos, videos, and international media pitches were published globally to call on governments to endorse the political declaration in Dublin and take all available measures to avoid the use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, protect children from harm during conflict, and prevent other grave violations.
Strategy and tactics
Social Media and Web dissemination across UNICEF channels
Advocacy efforts (Public & private high-level advocacy)
Partnerships with governments, UN Agencies and NGOs
Strategic public and media outreach
The multimedia materials in Ukraine were published on UNICEF global and national channels and media outlets (The Independent, France 24, El Pais, UN News) and shared in direct outreach to member states to influence negotiations in Geneva regarding the text of the Political Declaration.
UNICEF posted 39 pieces of content in the form of video, photo, and link posts across channels in four languages (Arabic, English, French, and Spanish) and received more than 4.9 million impressions in total, with 199,680 engagements and 708k video views.
UNICEF co-organized a photo exhibition in Dublin, Ireland, with the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) in collaboration with the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW).
Ahead of the high-level conference in Dublin in Nov 2022, the content targeted specific stakeholders to formally adopt the Declaration with the ultimate goal of better-protecting children and families from the use of EWIPA.
The project was described as a ‘highly successful collaboration across teams and divisions within UNICEF with clear advocacy objectives.’ Multimedia, Advocacy, Media, Digital, Web, and Social Media teas within the Division of Global Communications and Advocacy, in collaboration with key stakeholders and partners such as other UN Agencies, NGOs, and the Government of Ireland, coordinated communications and advocacy efforts contributing to a clear policy objective.
The campaign played a critical role in humanizing the Declaration and positioning UNICEF as a leading voice on EWIPA within the humanitarian community by raising awareness among the general public and decision-makers about the specific humanitarian consequences of EWIPA on children.
The Government of Ireland acknowledged UNICEF’s leadership with an explicit mention by the Irish Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, the penholder of the negotiations, during the Dublin Conference: ‘’As with the negotiation of the text, the role of the ICRC, UNODA, OCHA, and UNICEF in advocating for the endorsement of the Declaration has been absolutely critical”.
The content was published in more than six media outlets in Spanish and English , and the video assets were among UNICEF’s top-performing organic content in 2022.
5.8 million people were reached with content assets produced in Ukraine
Registering 17 million impressions across UNICEF social media channels
386,000 link clicks
This campaign reached 5.8 million unique users an average of 3 times each, delivering 17.2 million impressions and 385,713 link clicks to As Winter Falls. The multimedia web feature was created to highlight the stories of children and families impacted by explosive weapons in Ukraine. Using powerful images, videos, quotes, and diary excerpts gathered in the field, readers could see and hear directly from children who described the devastation to their homes, schools, and communities. The UNICEF producers heard from Veronika, 9, who was helping her mother repair the family’s destroyed home. Daria, 14, explained how she missed her friends because she was forced to study remotely after her school was badly damaged. Mykhailo, 12, recalled that his father was killed when a rocket landed in the yard of his family home.
The feature generated more than 76,000 page views with an average time on page of 5 min 41 secs – well above the site average and suggested an extremely high level of engagement among our audience with these children’s stories.
The project contributed to the elevation of EWIPA in the public discourse and increased pressure on member states. The final text of the Declaration, for example, included language proposed by UNICEF reflecting the specific impact of EWIPA on children. Eighty-three states subsequently endorsed it during the Dublin Conference in Nov 2022.