Ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

The use of explosive weapons (e.g. mortars, rockets, artillery shells, aircraft bombs, and improvised explosive devices) in populated areas inevitably leads to the disproportionate death and injury of civilians and destruction to civilian infrastructure. When explosive weapons were used in populated areas in 2015, 92% of those killed or injured were civilians. Reverberating effects, caused by damage to housing, places of work, health and sanitation facilities, and more, impact people’s access to food, water, housing, and healthcare and have implications for social capital and gender relations.

Reaching Critical Will represents WILPF on the steering group of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW). This network of non-governmental organisations calls for immediate action to prevent human suffering from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. We urge states and other actors 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.

In developing these standards, we call on states and other actors to make a commitment that explosive weapons with wide area effects will not be used in populated areas. As part of this committment, states will need to review national policy and practice and make changes that will strengthen the protection of civilians. States should also support stronger data-gathering on the use and impact of explosive weapons, including age-, sex-, and disability-disaggregated recording of casualties. They should recognise the rights of survivors, families of those killed or injured, and affected communities, and ensure a response to their short- and long-term needs.

At WILPF, we also believe that states need to prevent those that use explosive weapons in populated areas from acquiring arms. Even if a state commits itself to not using such weapons in populated areas, arms transfers they approve may end up being used to bomb civilians. Regardless of whether or not states are party to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), they must not transfer weapons to countries that are bombing or shelling in villages, towns, cities, or other populated areas.


trading-arms-bombing-towns-coverTrading arms, bombing towns: the lethal connection between the international arms trade and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

This briefing paper explores the potential effects that stricter prohibitions against arms transfers and the development of new commitments against the use of explosive weapons in populated weapons could have on reducing humanitarian harm and the drivers of displacement.

wewWomen and explosive weapons

This publication seeks to draw attention to some of the unique impacts on women that explosive weapons have when used in populated areas. The publication argues that it is important to ensure that women affected by the use of explosive weapons receive the same assistance and legal protection as men, and that they are seen as active agents of change rather than only as victims.

WILPF CESCR report FranceExplosive weapons and the right to health, education, and adequate housing

Together with WILPF's Human Rights programme, Reaching Critical Will prepared three briefs to the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights on the transfer of weapons from FranceSweden, and the United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in Yemen.



Explosive weapons and human rights, 2 June 2016

Political action to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, January 2016

Bloodbath in Syria: wherefrom the weapons?, 25 January 2016

States move to stop bombing and bombardment in towns and cities, 24 September 2015

Ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, 17 September 2015