More civilian casualties, from more incidents of explosive violence, were recorded in 2014 than in any of the three previous years that AOAV has been monitoring explosive weapon use.
2014 is the third consecutive year in which there has been a reported rise in civilian casualties from explosive weapons, up 5% from 2013 and up 52% since 2011, the year when AOAV first began recording.
Over four years, AOAV has now recorded 144,545 casualties of explosive violence. Three-quarters of all of these were civilians (112,262 deaths and injuries, 78%). Year on year, civilians have borne the burden of reported explosive violence.
Every year, no matter which country tops AOAV’s list, civilians are the most at risk from explosive weapons when they are used in populated areas. This was true again in 2014, when civilians made up 92% of casualties in populated areas, compared to 34% in other areas.
It is clear from this body of data that while the threat to civilians from explosive weapons is not reducing, the most effective measure that could be taken to dramatically improve civilian protection is to change how they are used.
This distinct and predictable pattern of harm is now recognised by more than 40 states around the world who have spoken out against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.[i] In February 2014, UN Security Council resolution 2139 demanded an immediate end to “the indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas, including and aerial bombardment […]” in the fighting in Syria.[ii] In April 2014, the Economic and Social Council of the General Assembly recommended all Member States to work towards developing practical and political measures to address the humanitarian impact of the use of wide-area effect explosive weapons in populated areas.[iii] The United Nations has brought together nations and civil society actors aiming to reduce the humanitarian harm that these weapons cause.[iv]
In July 2014 the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), together with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, held a meeting of experts on strengthening the protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.[v] This was the second such meeting, and demonstrates increased commitment towards the development of a political commitment. AOAV also convened a meeting of experts to address the humanitarian impact of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in September 2014.[vi]
AOAV is a member of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW). We urge states and all users of explosive weapons to:
- 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.
- States and other actors should stop using explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas.
- Previous AOAV reports have shown the impact that strong, progressive rules of engagement can have in limiting the impact of explosive weapons on civilians.[vii] States should review their policies and practices on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, particularly those which may be expected to impact a wide area.
- States, international organisations and civil society should work together to further a process to develop an international political commitment to reduce the impact on civilians of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, in line with the recommendations of the United Nations Secretary-General.[viii]
- The UN Security Council should call upon parties to refrain from using explosive weapons in populated areas. Whenever relevant Security Council resolutions should include specific recommendations for civilian protection from such use of these weapons, building on recent examples in Syria, Libya and Cote d’Ivoire.[ix]
- States and international organisations should publically condemn any use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
- Recognising the large number of civilian casualties caused by IEDs, all parties should work on measures which address the high level of humanitarian harm caused by these weapons. This includes measures to address the security of stockpiled ammunition and munitions, coordinated efforts towards control of source materials, and more systematic data collection.[x]
- States and users of explosive weapons should work towards the full realisation of the rights of victims, including those killed and injured, their families, and affected communities. They should strive to ensure the timely and adequate provision of needed services for the recovery, rehabilitation, and inclusion of victims of explosive violence, without discrimination.
- States, international organisations, and non-governmental organisations should gather and make available data on the impacts of explosive weapons. Data on the casualties of explosive violence should be disaggregated so that stakeholders can accurately assess the impact of explosive weapons. More should also be done to protect and support people and organisations who gather such data, including providing access to journalists on the ground.
- More research is needed to better understand the long-term harm from explosive weapons, including on the impact of these weapons on vital infrastructure and services, public health, economic livelihoods, and environmental contamination. More funding support for NGOs working on data collection, investigations and victim assistance is necessary to advance collective understanding of the impacts of explosive weapons in populated areas.
- AOAV has demonstrated over four years the importance of systematic and continuing monitoring of explosive violence and its impacts in populated areas. This monitoring must continue in order to assess if recommendations are put into effect.
[iii] United Nations General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, “Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations,” 29 April 2014
[iv] United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “OCHA Policy, Protecting Civilians from the use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas,” https://docs.unocha.org/sites/dms/Documents/EWIPA%20fact%20sheet%20final.pdf (accessed 26 may 2015).
[v] “Informal Expert Meeting on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the www.inew.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Oslo-Expert-Meeting-Summary-Report.pdf
[vi] Chatham House and Action on Armed Violence, “The Humanitarian Impact of Improvised Explosive Devices,” 18 September 2014, www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/field/field_document/20140918IEDHumanitarianImpact.pdf (26 May 2015).
[vii] Robert Perkins, “Air Power in Afghanistan, How NATO changed the rules, 2008-2014,” Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), December 2014, https://aoav.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/AOAV-Air-Power-in-Afghanistan.pdf (accessed 1 June 2015); Robert Perkins, “Under Fire, Israel’s artillery policies scrutinised,” Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), December 2014, https://aoav.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/AOAV-Under-Fire-Israels-artillery-policies-scrutinised.pdf (accessed 1 June 2015).
[viii] United Nations Security Council, “Report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict,” 22 November 2013, http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Report%20of%20the%20SG%20on%20the%20protection%20of%20civilians%20S2013-689.pdf (accessed 23 April 2014).
[ix] See for example, United Nations Security Council SC/10583, 21 March 2012, www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2012/sc10583.doc.htm (accessed 1 April 2014); United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, 17 March 2011, www.nato.int/nato_static/assets/pdf/pdf_2011_03/20110927_110311-UNSCR-1973.pdf (accessed 23 April 2014); and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1975, 30 March 2011,www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1975(2011) (accessed 23 April 2014).
[x] For more on these recommendations see Jane Hunter, “Tracking IED Harm,” Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), December 2014, https://aoav.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ied_data.pdf (accessed 01 June 2015); Jenna Corderoy, “Material Harm,” Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), December 2014, https://aoav.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ied_material_lr.pdf (accessed 01 June 2015).
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