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The environmental consequences of explosive weapon use: conclusion and recommendations

This article is part of AOAV’s examination of the environmental impacts of explosive violence. The full report, The Broken Land: the environmental consequences of explosive weapon use, can be found here.

The impact the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects, especially in populated areas, has on the environment are wide and diverse, and often have severe implications for human populations. This harm is caused by both the direct impact of the explosive weapons, and also from reverberating effects, such as the long-term displacement of civilians and the concomitant impact this has on pollution levels or habitat devastation.

Such environmental harm is all too often overlooked, as it is deemed of lower importance both during the conflict and after. But it is clear that such impact – from infrastructural damage to unexploded ordnance to agricultural harm, to the devastation of flora and fauna – can further devastate the lives of those who have already had their world torn apart by conflict.

The harm from the use of explosive weapons is also grimly predictable, with environmental devastation and its long-term consequences repeated across a variety of conflicts, from the world wars of the first half of the twentieth century to the most recent wars of this century and many of those in between. And yet, while such harm is foreseeable, little is done to prevent it or address its aftermath.

One of the best ways to prevent such devastation would be to avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide-area impacts in populated areas in the first place. Indeed, AOAV, along with our partners in the International Network of Explosive Weapons (INEW) are calling on states and other actors to face up to this problem as a policy challenge, to meet the needs of victims and survivors, to review their national practices and to come together to develop stronger international standards to curb this pattern of violence.

This action would minimise infrastructural damage and pollution, and reduce displacement, and all the consequences from such. While efforts to develop a political declaration to avoid the use of such weapons in populated areas are on-going, the commitment by states cannot come soon enough .


  • AOAV calls on states and other actors to politically commit to avoid using explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas.
  • States should work towards the full realisation of the rights of victims, including those killed and injured, their families, and affected communities.
  • States 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. This necessitates the consideration of environmental issues within this provision.
  • States should be cognisant of the fact that, even when civilians are not killed, destruction to civilian infrastructure and land can have widespread and long-term harm for communities. 
  • More research is needed to better understand the long-term harm from the use of explosive weapons on the environment.
  • Greater efforts should be made to recognise and swiftly address the environmental harm that such violence can cause.