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Explosive weapons – the problem

Armed conflicts are increasingly conducted among civilian populations and with weapon systems designed for open battlefields, presenting serious challenges to the protection of civilians in armed conflicts today. Tens of thousands of women, men and children are killed, injured and traumatised each year by the use of explosive weapons in the neighbourhoods where they live and work: when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, around 90% of those directly killed or injured are civilians. Record numbers of people are displaced, fleeing in search of safety. Vital power, water and sanitation infrastructure is destroyed, shutting down essential services including health care and education. Schools and hospitals are damaged or destroyed, food supplies disrupted, communities and areas contaminated with unexploded ordnance are rendered unsafe, and homes uninhabitable.

The Geneva Consultations

In October 2019 Austria hosted an international conference on Protecting Civilians in Urban Warfare. At the close of the conference, Ireland announced it would hold a series of consultations with a view towards developing a political declaration to address the humanitarian harm arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

The first consultation took place on 18 November 2019, the second on 10 February. The third round of consultations were delayed by the evolving situation relating to COVID-19, but are now scheduled (online) for 3-5 March 2021.

States have made significant headway in the development of a political declaration – thus far, the consultations have been productive, with a high level of engagement by states, numerous interventions, and wide-ranging support for the initiative.

For INEW’s coverage of the consultation process, see here:

More information on the consultations, including written submissions, is available here: 

The Dublin Endorsing Conference

The Government of Ireland plans to host a formal conference where states will be invited to endorse an international political commitment on the protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Initial plans to host this in May 2020 have been delayed due to the evolving situation with COVID-19.

INEW will host an international civil society event in conjunction with the formal Dublin Conference.

Background briefings

Background briefing paper on protecting civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

Explosive weapons in populated areas – key questions and answers

Key elements of a declaration

A longer briefing paper on a declaration to prevent harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

An extensive selection of reports on explosive weapons is available via the INEW Resources page. Reports can be filtered by thematic area, date of publication and author organisation. Case studies are available upon request via


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How to describe the International Network on Explosive Weapons

INEW is an international network of NGOs that calls for immediate action to prevent human suffering from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Member organisations are based around the world.

INEW is governed by a Steering Committee whose members are Action on Armed Violence, Article 36, Center for Civilians in Conflict, Handicap International, Human Rights Watch, Norwegian People’s Aid, Oxfam, PAX, Save the Children and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

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