Tracking IED Harm

Tracking IED Harm: Conclusions and recommendations

This is a section of the report Tracking IED Harm. To read the full report, please click here. As part of this report AOAV examines organisation profiles and data, to read this please see here. The case study into the IED harm caused in Afghanistan can be found here. The research was undertaken in response to the harm that the IED can cause and the relatively low awareness of IEDs in comparison to other weapons – for more on this see here.


IEDs cause death and devastation globally. Their increasing use has been shown to kill and injure civilians, destroy infrastructure and buildings, and cause displacement on a huge scale.

It is, however, impossible to fully quantify the harm caused by these weapons and to effectively address and tackle this known humanitarian problem without reliable, comprehensive data. We need such data not only in order to provide assistance to the thousands of victims of IED attacks, but also to develop effective counter-IED techniques. Only with such data will the harm caused by IEDs be properly tackled.

This report has shown that a number of agencies and organisations exist which collect data on various aspects of IED use. These organisations can all contribute to the ultimate goal of limiting the impact of IEDs, albeit from different motivations and mandates. AOAV looked at 50 such organisations and agencies, focusing on 18 in this report, and found that current data collection efforts are piecemeal and disjointed, with a lack of coordination and data sharing between bodies.

The field of data collection is affected by
some shared limitations, such as geographical limitations and the different focus of each body. Language, and the way the problem is under- stood, is highlighted as a principal concern. There are few common definitions, which make direct comparisons difficult. Equally, every dataset focuses on slightly different aspects, such as a particular country or region of concern, or a different thematic focus. While this is understandable, it makes any real effort to consolidate and analyse existing data difficult.

The report also shows best practice in collecting data. Organisations should have a clear focus which is well defined and not subject to political bias. Data collected within each focus should
be comprehensive, and be sourced from reliable sources, such as UNAMA which requires three independent sources for each incident recorded.

Datasets should be useful to others, and as transparent as possible. The C-POST Suicide Attack Database provides a good example of this, as their data can be searched and downloaded in a very user-friendly manner, making it extremely useful for data analysis by other organisations and individuals.

UNAMA reflects what data collection can and should do. It has developed from carrying out basic data collection to highlighting specific threats, countering propaganda, and advocating for measures to reduce civilian casualties of IEDs. UNAMA learned from and incorporated lessons learned from their own shortcomings, and now challenge the use of IEDs, hold users to account, and provide advice and inform C-IED strategies.

AOAV believes that much more needs to be done to record the use of IEDs, and the resulting civilian casualties. As stated by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon: “United Nations actors should work together to establish a common United Nations system to systematically record civilian casualties as part of broader efforts to monitor and report on violations or international humanitarian and human rights law, drawing on good practice and expertise from within the United Nations, Member States and civil society.”


AOAV’s policies on reducing the harm caused by IEDs

IED attacks which cause civilian casualties need to be considered an unacceptable form of violence and must be condemned as such. Practical policies to disrupt access to IED materials and bomb-making knowledge need to be implemented nationally and internationally. Victims of this form of violence should receive a full range of support including treatment for psychological harm.

Prevent future attacks

  • States, the international community and local leaders should work together to stigmatise the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Data collection

  • Those who use IEDs should collect data on the impact of their use, including any civilian deaths and injuries.
  • Those collecting data should make every effort to ensure that this data is credible, comprehensive, impartial, and not subject to political bias.
  • Data should be collected from reliable sources to ensure accuracy and minimising the risk of compromised information.
  • Data on the casualties of IEDs should be disaggregated so that stakeholders can accurately assess their impact.
  • Data should be shared as fully as possible between interested organisations.

The use of data

  • The gathering of data is not an end in itself. Those collecting data should then ensure that it has a purpose, and is used for this purpose.
  • Data should be used to stigmatise those carrying out IED attacks.
  • Data should be used by bodies carrying out advocacy work, to encourage users of IEDs to limit their use in areas where civilian casual- ties may occur, and to ensure that the rights of victims of IED attacks are fully realised.
  • Those carrying out IED clearance, mine risk education, and those attempting to control the transfer of materials used to make IEDs, should use such data to help them understand the full extent of IED use.
  • IED data should be used in planning for health care services and compensation schemes to aid victims of attacks.

UN agencies

  • UNAMA should continue working with the Afghan government to ensure that their current data collection and advocacy model is sustainable and replicated if and when they leave Afghanistan.
  • UN agencies should look to UNAMA and copy their model elsewhere, such as in Iraq.