Each year, tens of thousands of civilians are killed or injured by explosive weapons used in populated areas (EWIPA).
Still more civilians are affected from damage to vital infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, housing, and water and sanitation systems. Explosive weapons kill, injure, damage, and destroy as a result of the blast and fragmentation from the detonation of explosives. These weapons include several explosive ordnances as well as improvised explosive devices ( IEDs ).
It is estimated that 91% of casualties from EWIPA in 2012 were civilians. The 2012 UN Secretary General’s Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict highlighted EWIPA as one of the key challenges for the protection of civilians and urged parties to “refrain from using explosive weapons with a wide-area impact in densely populated areas”.
Explosive weapons kill, injure, damage, and destroy using blast and fragmentation from the detonation of explosives. These weapons include explosive ordnance such as mortars, rockets, artillery shells, and aircraft bombs, as well as improvised explosive devices. When used in populated areas, these weapons are often indiscriminate in their impacts and can inflict severe and long-term suffering on civilians. Each year, tens of thousands of civilians are killed or injured by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, sometimes abbreviated as EWIPA. Still more civilians are affected by damage to vital infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, housing, and water and sanitation systems. It is estimated that 93% of the casualties from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in 2013 were civilians2.
The international community is galvanising for action on this issue. The UN Secretary-General, a range of UN organizations, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have highlighted the serious threat to civilians posed by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and have urged for immediate action to address their impacts. A growing number of governments have also recognized the unacceptable humanitarian harm caused by explosive weapons in populated areas and the challenges this poses for the protection of civilians.
NPA endorses the call of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), which reads as follows:
The International Network on Explosive Weapons calls for immediate action to prevent human suffering from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. States an other actors should:
- Acknowledge that use of explosive weapons in populated areas tends to cause severe harm to individuals and communities and furthers suffering by damaging vital infrastructure;
- Strive to avoid such harm and suffering in any situation, review and strengthen national policies and practices on use of explosive weapons and gather and make available relevant data;
- Work for full realisation of the rights of victims and survivors;
- Develop stronger international standards, including certain prohibitions and restrictions on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
NPA is a founding member of INEW (www.inew.org) and a member of the INEW Strategy Group, and thus works at the core of international NGO coalition efforts to stigmatize the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and promote the development of stronger international standards.
In cases of use of explosive weapons in populated areas where NPA is implementing operations, NPA will seek to research, document, and analyse the impact on civilians and bring field realities to the attention of media and policy-makers.
In addition to our work at the international level as part of INEW, NPA is committed to implement operations on the ground to help reduce and prevent the use of and suffering from explosive weapons in populated areas. Consequently, NPA has established a new Arms Management and Destruction Pillar, alongside our Mine Action Pillar. Through arms management and destruction operations, NPA will help limit the general presence and availability of weapons and ammunition, thus lowering the potential for the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as well as other armed violence. As an integral component of these arms management and destruction operations, NPA carries out advocacy seeking to stigmatize the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, as well as on the need to address dangerous and insecure ammunition storage areas and destroy surpluses of weapons and ammunition. See pages 12-15 for NPA’s policy on the latter two issues, which are both closely interlinked with that of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
NPA has also started developing practical preventative measures to help civilians protect themselves when explosive weapons are being used. When conflict in a populated area is expected, good media coverage of the need for such conflict preparedness and protection initiatives also has the potential to help stigmatize and even prevent the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.