The ICRC remains deeply concerned by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area in populated areas. Even when used against military objectives located in populated area, such weapons cause devastating direct and indirect civilian harm. In particular, their use results in unacceptably high levels of civilian casualties and destruction, directly caused by the weapons’ blast and fragmentation effects. Our first-hand experience shows that it also causes significant indirect (or reverberating) effects such as disruptions in the water and electricity supply, health care and other services essential to the survival of the civilian population. Bombing and shelling cities displaces people and causes major setbacks to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. This grave pattern of harm cannot simply be accepted as a normal and inevitable consequence of war.
- Ms. Véronique Christory, Senior Arms Control Adviser, ICRC New York.
Statement to the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, First Committee: General debate on all disarmament and international security agenda items, 20 Oct 2020.
In this report Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) presents the findings from the tenth consecutive year of the Explosive Violence Monitoring Project (EVMP), which records the casualties from explosive weapon use worldwide as reported in English-language media.
In 2020, AOAV recorded 18,747 deaths and injuries as a result of the use of explosive weapons around the world. As seen every year for the past decade, civilians continued to bear the burden of this harm: civilians accounted for 11,056 of all explosive violence casualties recorded, or 59%.
For the first time since our Monitor began, Afghanistan was the worst impacted country, as the casualties recorded in Syria continued to fall. Syria saw civilian deaths and injuries from explosive violence decline by 58% in 2020 compared to 2019. While Afghanistan also saw lower levels of civilian harm, compared to 2019, this reduction was smaller, falling by a quarter (25%).
When explosive weapons were used in populated areas, the threat to civilians posed – as with other years – a significant concern. In 2020, 88% of those reported harmed by explosive weapons in populated areas were civilians. Civilian casualties from explosive weapons in populated areas accounted for 89% of all civilian casualties harmed by explosive weapons in 2020.
These findings reiterate the consistent pattern of harm that AOAV has monitored over the last decade. Over the last ten years, AOAV has found that when explosive weapons were used in populated areas, on average nine in every ten of the deaths and injuries caused were civilians.
While this data highlights the immediate harm to civilians, the use of explosive weapons frequently has lasting impacts that linger far beyond the blast.
AOAV and colleagues have sought to highlight some of the reverberating effects of explosive violence harm, which see even greater numbers of civilians affected, with impacts lasting generations.
Thousands more civilians are devastated by the impacts of explosive weapons than can possibly be hinted at by our casualty figures. AOAV’s data is not