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New Study: Effects of explosive weapons in populated areas on Cluster Munitions

Last updated: 24.05.2016 // UNIDIR has newly published an Austrian and Norwegian supported report on the direct and long term impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Recently, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) published a report, supported by Austria and Norway, looking at the implications of the reverberating effects of explosive force (REEF) used in populated areas. According to UNIDIR the six-month pilot project is intended to contribute to understanding the nature and impacts of the use of explosive force in populated areas, especially those downstream from the immediate blast and fragmentation of explosive weapons.

The use of explosive weapons in populated areas represents a very worrying trend in current warfare, increasingly  taking place in cities and big towns, particularly in conflicts in the Middle East and in Ukraine. This constitutes a grave humanitarian problem and is currently having a devastating impact on civilians.

The report seeks to raise awareness of the immediate and long-term impacts of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The unacceptable fact is that, today, 92 per cent of people who are killed or injured by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas are civilians.

In addition to killing and injuring people, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas cause immense damage to critically needed infrastructure like hospitals, schools, electric power and water supply. It also leaves behind explosive remnants of war that remain a threat (possibly long after the end of hostilities) until their removal. It also hinders the delivery of humanitarian aid and causes long-term psychological damage.

Because of these devastating effects, UNIDIR has linked the issue to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). They look at how the increasing use of explosive weapons in populated areas threatens the achievement of several of the SDG’s: Goal 2 on ending hunger, Goal 3 concerning health, Goal 5 on women’s empowerment, Goal 6 on water and sanitation, and finally Goal 11 on safer cities.

The evidence presented in the report suggests that these effects are so damaging that they are undermining the global efforts to achieve the SDGs. In addition to the devastating effects mentioned above, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas have a negative impact on a number of human rights, it discourages investors, private sector suppliers and the operations of humanitarian agencies and it destroys livelihoods. Together with the direct and indirect casualties and the destruction of key infrastructure, it shows how massive the impact is on cities and human lives.

The UNIDIR report examines some key reverberating effects, that have so far been understudied, when looking at the effects of explosive weapons in populated areas. Among them are livelihoods, environment and economies. Among the suggestions presented in the report is the need to develop a framework, improve information exchange and monitoring damage of infrastructure.