Members of the UN Security Council should use their next open debate on the protection of civilians to highlight the problem of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Press release by Article 36

For immediate release

(London, 27 March 2012) As a new report highlighting the civilian toll from bombing in populated areas is released today in London, the UK weapons campaigning group Article 36 called on the UK to tackle this issue head on in the UN Security Council.

We have called on the government since 2010 to confront this issue, the UN and Red Cross have spoken out, but the UK has not raised it in the debates on protection of civilians at the Security Council,” said Thomas Nash, Director of Article 36 and joint Coordinator of the International Network on Explosive Weapons. “The next debate in June will look back on a period during which thousands of civilians were killed by the bombardments in Syria. The UK must acknowledge that this kind of use of explosive weapons in populated areas is unacceptable.”

The new report is published by Action on Armed Violence, a founding member of the International Network on Explosive Weapons. The report reveals that in 2011, 84% of casualties from bombings in populated areas were civilians. The report analyses 2,522 incidents of explosive weapons use in 68 countries and territories, with 21,499 civilians reported killed and injured over the 12-month period. More information on the report is available at

Towns and cities are being bombed on a daily basis and thousands of civilians are getting killed and maimed. There’s a moral outrage gap here, where this is somehow seen as an inevitable part of conflict. We need stronger rules to stop the bombing and bombardment of populated areas. The UK should take a lead in developing them,” said Thomas Nash.

Article 36 hosts and provides coordination for the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), which is a coalition of eight NGOs established in March 2011 to prevent the suffering caused by explosive weapons. INEW has been calling on states to address this issue at the UN Security Council debates on Protection of Civilians.

The Action on Armed Violence report will be launched at an event hosted by the International Network on Explosive Weapons and Action on Armed Violence at 7pm, Tuesday 27 March at the Commonwealth Club, 25 Northumberland Avenue, WC2N 5AP. Journalists wishing to attend please contact Thomas Nash: or 0771 192 6730.

Contact: Thomas Nash: or UK mobile: 0771 192 6730


What is Article 36?

Article 36 is a UK-based not-for-profit organisation working to prevent the unintended, unnecessary or unacceptable harm caused by certain weapons. Article 36 promotes civil society partnerships to respond to harm caused by existing weapons and to build a stronger framework to prevent harm as weapons are used or developed in the future. Article 36 hosts and provides coordination for the International Network on Explosive Weapons.

What are explosive weapons?

Explosive weapons include improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as well as explosive ordnance such as mortars, artillery shells and aircraft bombs. These weapons use blast and fragmentation to kill and injure people in the area around the point of detonation. When used in public places, this area-effect means that innocent people are often severely affected. Data indicate that between 80 and 90% of those killed and injured by explosive weapons when used in populated areas are civilians; still more are affected when there is damage to vital infrastructure (such as schools, hospitals, housing and water and sanitation systems).

What is the International Network on Explosive Weapons?

The International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) was established in Geneva on 29 March, 2011 by Action on Armed Violence, Handicap International, Human Rights Watch, IKV/Pax Christi, Medact, Norwegian People’s Aid, Oxfam International, and Save the Children UK. INEW calls on States and other actors to acknowledge and strive to avoid the severe harm caused by explosive weapons use in populated areas; to gather and make available relevant data; to realize the rights of victims; and to develop stronger international standards in this area.

What are the debates on protection of civilians at the Security Council?

Twice a year the UN Security Council holds an Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians. The last debate was in November 2011 and the next debate is likely to be in June 2012. The purpose of these debates is to consider what needs to be done to enhance the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Permanent and rotating members of the Security Council speak and other states are also invited to speak. The UK is considered the lead state within the Security Council on the issue of protection of civilians.

Who has spoken out on the issue?

The issue of civilian harm from explosive weapons use in populated areas has been raised during these debates since 2010. Australia, Austria, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Switzerland and others have raised the issue in previous debates. The UN Secretary General has called on states to address the issue and the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, has highlighted the problem in recent conflicts such as Libya, Syria and Cote d’Ivoire. Elsewhere, the ICRC has noted that explosive weapons with a wide impact area should be avoided in densely populated areas.


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