AOAV: all our reports

23 NATO states sign agreement to protect civilians from explosive weapons in populated areas

Over two-thirds of NATO member states have signed the first international explosive weapons declaration to protect civilians in populated areas, at Dublin Castle, Friday 18 November 2022.

In total, 80 states are signatories of this declaration, which commits states to impose restrictions on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas to reduce civilian harm, and also to assist victims and affected communities.

The NATO states signatories are: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Türkiye, United Kingdom and the United States.

When explosive weapons are used in populated areas, 90% of victims are civilians.

This data comes from Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) which, globally, has recorded at least 103,000 civilians killed and 192,000 civilians injured from explosive violence, as reported in English language media since 2010 in some 129 countries and territories. At least, 92,000 of those killed and 178,000 of those injured were in populated areas.

Of note, of the 80 countries who signed up to the declaration, 57 have witnessed explosive violence in their own territories since 2010. Over two thirds of explosive violence incidents witnessed by the signatory countries were in populated areas, and in those incidents 87% of victims have been civilians: almost 25,000 people.

Such harm paved the way for this landmark agreement, driven forward by the Irish government, which addresses the widespread civilian suffering and devastation resulting from the bombing and shelling of cities, towns, and other populated areas.

“This political commitment is a welcome event. Years of explosive weapon use in towns and cities, such as Homs or Mariupol, have ripped lives apart, destroyed families and taken life without regard for age, gender or civilian status. Finally, we are seeing the global community waking up to this harm – an important step towards peace and reconciliation,” said Iain Overton, Executive Director of AOAV.

The International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) welcomed the declaration and called on all states to sign and implement it. 

“This declaration sends a clear message that using explosive weapons in populated areas causes unacceptable civilian suffering and devastation and must stop. It is time for all states to endorse and implement the Declaration to help civilians and their communities during and after conflict”, said Laura Boillot, Coordinator for INEW. 

The Declaration requires states to impose limits on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, which is the leading cause of harm to civilians in conflicts today. It also requires states to assist victims and affected communities both during and after conflict and to address the long-term suffering that stems from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.