In October 2022, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted in a much-welcomed draft resolution on Countering the Threat Posed by Improvised Explosive Devices. That same month, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) presented a series of recommendations for addressing the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at a UNGA event in New York, alongside data on the impact of IEDs over the past decade. Building on resolutions and decisions going back to 2015, this new Resolution is a continued response to the “devastation caused by the increasing use of IEDs” that AOAV’s data continues to evidence.
Indeed, analysis of AOAV’s IED data over the past decade strongly supports the need for continued emphasis on the threat they pose to civilians. Between 2011 and 2021, AOAV recorded 31,380 incidents of intentional explosive weapon use, and 273,757 reported civilian casualties. IEDs caused 51% (140,528) of those casualties. In comparison, air-launched weapons caused 23% of civilian casualties in that time, and ground-launched weapons caused 21%.
IEDs also accounted for the majority, 42% (13,052), of recorded incidents in that time, and the ratio of harm per IED incident remained consistently higher than for other explosive weapons.
Of the 13,052 incidents of IED attacks recorded between 2011 and 2021, 58% (7,600) occurred in populated areas – areas where 91% (128,022) of civilian casualties occurred.
Furthermore, suicide attacks, which have weighed heavily in the international psyche over the past 20 years, are shown by AOAV data to be among some of the most harmful uses of explosive weapons over the past decade. Though there has been a drop in the global impact of suicide bombings, it must be noted that in 1972, for instance, there was not one suicide bomb anywhere on the planet.
AOAV recorded 2,206 incidents of suicide IED attacks from 2011 to 2021, or 17% of recorded IED attacks, which caused 46% (64,324) of all civilian casualties of IEDs in that time. 80% of recorded casualties of suicide attacks were civilians.
As the data illustrates, IEDs remain a leading cause of civilian harm from explosive weapon use. They also pose a distinct challenge, cutting across multiple policy strands and multiple sectors. Throughout the Resolution, the UNGA acknowledges the broad spectrum of policy areas which are implicated in the prevention and mitigation of the IED threat, requiring a whole-of-government approach and a coordinated community of action spanning governments, international organisations, civil society, and community-level groups. The Resolution highlights the importance of information sharing among these various stakeholders, as well as better management of training, knowledge, and technology to respond to the incredibly varied and constantly evolving threat of IEDs.
In recognition of the humanitarian impacts of IEDs globally, and of the highly complex nature of this threat, the Resolution highlights the decision of the UNGA to include “Countering the threat posed by IEDs” as an item in the provisional agenda of its 79th session. AOAV looks forward to continuing our efforts to support the mitigation of civilian harm from IEDs.
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