Fight Terrorism: Stop Bombing Cities and other Populated Areas
November 22, 2017 Action On Armed Violence & Reaching Critical Will / Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
When used in populated areas, explosive weapons cause great harm to individuals as well as to communities. According to Action on Armed Violence, between 80 and 90% of the people injured or killed are civilians in incidents where explosive weapons are used in populated areas. The use of these weapons also damages and destroys critical infrastructure such as housing, schools, hospitals, and water and sanitation systems, resulting in devastating long-term effects on people's lives far beyond the conflict itself.
The Impact of Explosive Weapons on Land, Cities and People
Reaching Critical Will / Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
What are explosive weapons?
Explosive weapons include bombs, cluster munitions, grenades, improvised explosive devices (IED), mines, missiles, mortars, and rockets. Though they differ in composition, design, and the way they are used, these weapons share certain fundamental characteristics. They use explosive force to affect an area around the point of detonation, usually through the effects of blast and fragmentation. 
Although they may differ in size, in how they are delivered to a target and in many other details, all of these weapons use explosives as the primary means of causing damage. 
When used in populated areas, explosive weapons are very likely to cause great harm to individuals as well as to communities. According to data gathered by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), between 80 and 90% of the people injured or killed are civilians in incidents where explosive weapons are used in populated areas. 
Survivors of explosive weapon attacks can suffer from many kinds of long-term challenges such as disability, psychological harm, and social and economic exclusion. 
The fact that explosive weapons use blast and fragmentation to kill and injure people across an area around the point of detonation makes them especially problematic since their effects are difficult to fully anticipate and control.  The wider the area of effect, the more difficult this is.
The use of these weapons also has an overwhelming negative impact on infrastructure such as housing, schools, hospitals, and water and sanitation systems, resulting in devastating long-term effects on people's lives far beyond the conflict itself.
"Populated areas" broadly equates to the legal concept of "concentrations of civilians," as used in Protocol III to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW).  This term should be interpreted and understood in a common and broad way in order to encompass all those areas where civilians are at risk of harm, but also to include the indirect harm and danger these weapons cause, such as destruction of vital infrastructure, resulting in a pattern of wider, long-term suffering. 
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) May 24, 2016
The use of explosive weapons
Explosive weapons are used in most armed conflicts, by both state and non-state actors. Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria were the top five most heavily affected by the use of explosive weapons in 2012. 
According to Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), the global numbers of civilian causalities from use of explosive weapons in populated areas were significantly higher than that of armed actor casualties throughout 2012.
In addition, even when explosive weapons were used to target military areas and armed actors, over half of the casualties were civilians.  93% of fatalities due to explosive weapons are civilians, far higher than the proportion of civilian deaths from other weapon use (71%).
In 2012 an increasing use of explosive weapons was registered in Iraq, with a particular noted increase in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). IEDs are often used by non-state armed groups, and while they are used in attacks on military targets they are often also used directly against civilian populations. 
Syria was the single most affected country by explosive weapons in 2012. AOAV recorded a nearly 800% increase in civilian casualties in Syria in 2012.  The total numbers of casualties during 2012 in Syria due to explosive weapons were 8382 people.
Legal analyses have concluded that the legal regulation of explosive weapons within international law is incoherent and fragmentary.  A UNIDIR study found that "existing regulatory categories and notions are at times vague, ill-defined and overlapping and do not formally recognize the common functioning of explosive weapons through blast and fragmentation." 
However, the provisions of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) are binding on parties during circumstances of armed conflict and impose legal obligations on all conflict parties, state and non-state actors, to protect civilians from harm and reduce unnecessary suffering.
While there is no specific treaty prohibiting or regulating the use of explosive weapons as a category, their use in war is still a subject to IHL.  The main principles of IHL regarding protection of civilians from attacks, which are reflected in Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, also underpined by international customary law, are "distinction," "proportionality," and "precaution".
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) June 15, 2015
What kind of impact do explosive weapons have on women?
While it is clear that consequences of the use of explosive weapons are devastating for whole communities, women's experiences in conflict tend to be overlooked or ignored.
The specific impact explosive weapon use has on women has so far been largely absent and very little has been documented of the gendered impact of explosive weapons. However, the AOAV report from March 2013 found that between 2003 and 2011, "the proportion of women and children killed and injured was significantly higher for explosive weapons than for firearm incidents and other forms of violence in Iraq." 
Research done on landmines shows that women tend to face a higher risk of stigmatisation and marginalisation due to their injuries and also have more limited access to emergency care and longer-term rehabilitation assistance. Major destruction of health care structures has been identified as having a particular devastating effect on women, in particular in relation to accessing maternity care.
Furthermore, the methods and nature of armed conflict can transform the perception of women as active members of a community or a household into passive victims requiring protection. This tends to result in considering women, often grouped with children and the elderly, as passive and helpless.
Materials and Resources WILPF is part of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), a partnership of non-governmental organisations working to reduce and prevent harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. For more information on explosive weapons, go to: www.inew.org
Note:Due to the lack of data and information on the impact these weapons have on women, Reaching Critical Will published the report, Women and Explosive Weapons, in May 2014. The publication [see posting below] seeks to draw attention to some of the unique impacts on women that explosive weapons have when used in populated areas.
 Dodd, H & Perkins, R, AN EXPLOSIVE SITUATION, Monitoring explosive violence in 2012, (2013), Action on Armed Violence,
International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), Learn more, http://www.inew.org/learn-more-about-inew
 Dodd, H & Perkins, R, AN EXPLOSIVE SITUATION, Monitoring explosive violence in 2012, (2013), Action on Armed Violence, p. 9
 M. Brehm, Protecting Civilians from the Effects of Explosive Weapons An Analysis of International Legal and Policy Standards (2012), United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, UNIDIR/2012/8, p. 147
 J. Borrie & M. Brehm, Enhancing civilian protection from use of explosive weapons in populated areas: building a policy and research agenda (2011), International Review of the Red Cross, Volume 93, number 883 September 2011, p. 819
 Dodd, H & Perkins, R, AN EXPLOSIVE SITUATION, Monitoring explosive violence in 2012, (2013), Action on Armed Violence, p. 12
Women and Explosive Weapons Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
Today we are launching our new report, Women and Explosive Weapons. Concern with the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has increased over the last few years, due to the severe harm caused to civilians and the wider community. However, the debate has so far not sufficiently highlighted the specific impact that explosive weapons have on women. This publication therefore seeks to draw attention to some of the unique impacts on women that explosive weapons have when used in populated areas.
The report calls on governments to recognise that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas causes severe humanitarian problems, requiring the development of stronger and more explicit international standards, restrictions, and prohibitions. For a full list of our recommendations, please click here.
The focus on women and explosive weapons is part of Reaching Critical Will's attempt to highlight the impact of weapons on women and the importance of a strengthened gender perspective in disarmament and arms control in order to ensure inclusive security and prevent all human suffering.
The report briefly describes explosive weapons and the legal tools available to assess their use, focusing in particular on legal documents that support greater inclusion of gender analysis and women's participation. The second part of this paper gives an overview on how explosive weapons specifically affect women and why a gendered analysis of the impact of explosive weapons use in populated areas is needed.
You can download the full report as a pdf here, and the recommendations below. The report is also available in Arabic.
Conclusions and Recommendations
It is clear that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas leads to severe harm to civilians. Reports indicated that 80–90% of casualties due to explosive weapons used in populated areas are civilians.
In addition to direct physical harm, the use of explosive weapons also has a long-lasting effect due to the weapons' destructive nature, which means that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas continues to contribute to death and challenges after the immediate fighting is over.
Therefore, the humanitarian consequences of the use of explosive weapon in populated areas need to be acknowledged and addressed by stronger international policies in order to strengthen protection of civilians.
Although limited data is available to analyse the actual impact explosive weapons use has on women, this report has made evident that explosive weapons have specific gendered aspects of harm that might not be apparent at first sight. Casualty recording and all other discussions on explosive weapons in populated areas should therefore always take in to account the unique impacts explosive weapons have on women.
More research is required with a specific focus on the demographic characteristics of the civilian harm caused by these weapons.
In spite of being affected by these weapons, women are rarely allowed to contribute to decisions regarding security issues or peace negotiations. Such exclusion leads to a failure to adequately address women's experiences, needs, and concerns, as well as victim assistance and accountability mechanisms in regards to the use of explosive weapons.
Increased participation of women on all decision-making levels concerning international peace and security is therefore needed.
The above challenges are largely due to a lack of understanding and implementation of already available rules and laws dealing with women and gender. The specific impact that explosive weapons have on women and girls must, in accordance with UNSCR 1325 (2000), 1881 (2009), and 2122 (2013), be included in all data collection and research, in order to understand and prevent suffering.
The WPS agenda also ensures the inclusion of women and their experience in all decision-making forums related to explosive weapons use and their humanitarian impact.
Therefore, rules and laws already in force should be respected and better implemented, and be guided by the Women Peace and Security agenda.
Without this, there will continue to be insufficient information and understanding, which will in turn affect areas such as needs assessment, victim assistance, prevention strategies, risk reduction education, and information gathering activities. Working with insufficient information from the outset will lead to inadequate measures that may even worsen the situation for women.
Mainstreaming gender in disarmament and arms policies has faced challenges because it has not been sufficiently integrated as a general approach to address all topics of security, armed conflict, and armed violence.
Together with the gender-neutral language in international law and politics, this has contributed to the lack of inclusion of women's experiences and perspectives and thereof lack of security for women.
As men are seen as the key normative actor in security policies, the absence of a gender analysis therefore presupposes men's experience as the only relevant experience.
The gendered impacts of explosive weapons need to be addressed as an overarching approach in policymaking in order to have appropriate tools that prevent and correlate to the abovementioned areas.
States, international organisations, and civil society should work to: * Recognise that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas causes severe humanitarian problems, requiring the development of stronger and more explicit international standards, restrictions, and prohibitions.
* Strive to avoid such harm and suffering in any situation by reviewing and strengthening national policies and practices on use of explosive weapons.
* Undertake increased research on the general humanitarian consequence of explosive weapons use in populated areas, including research on the gendered effect of these weapons.
* Develop stronger international standards for the collection of data on violence incidents, including gender-disaggregated data.
* Develop increased understanding of and policies regarding the rights of victims and survivors and include a gender perspective in victims and survivor assistance programmes.
* Acknowledge and address in the human rights bodies that the use of explosive weapons in contexts of crime or law-enforcement should be assumed to be a human rights violation, in particular as it affects the right to life and freedom of movement, as well as socioeconomic rights.
* Promote, in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1325 and the women, peace and security agenda, women's participation in all decision-making bodies andprocesses, in particular on disarmament and security issues.
* Strengthen the implementation of national policies and practices in line with UNSCR 2122 (2013).
* Provide better training on gender mainstreaming in disarmament and security forums and improve the dissemination of knowledge of these rules and practices in order to strengthen the existing policies and laws.
* Work to achieve incorporation of women's perspectives and participation in relation to security issues in the post-2015 sustainable development goals agenda and any follow-up to the Beijing Platform for Action.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.