Explosive violence is a prominent part of the wider phenomena of armed violence. The use of explosive weapons, whether mass-produced ordnance or improvised explosive devices, produces distinctive patterns of humanitarian and development harm – of which civilian populations bear a disproportionate burden.

Explosive violence is responsible for high levels of death and injury to civilian populations. Whilst the contexts in which explosive violence occurs range across the whole spectrum of armed violence, from localised criminal acts to large-scale collective violence and conflict, the great majority of incidents relate to lines of social and political cleavage.

Explosive weapons project force and fragmentation out from a point of detonation. As such they affect ‘areas’ rather than ‘points’. In general, the forces they exert are liable to kill those in close proximity to the detonation. This combination of high lethality and area affect makes the outcome of explosive weapon use difficult to determine with precision. For this reason they are widely rejected for purposes of domestic law enforcement. These same characteristics make them particularly effective for attacks where precise consideration of outcomes is not required.

The failure of explosive weapons to function when fired, or the abandonment of explosive ordnance, can leave residual contamination which may kill and injure civilian populations and deny access to land. In many contexts inadequate safety and security mechanisms mean that even the basic storage of explosive weapons can present substantial public health risks.

Beyond the direct casualties caused by the use of these weapons, explosive violence disrupt economic and social networks, hampers development, and weakens the capacity of the state to deliver public services. Incidents of explosive violence receive widespread publicity and can distort perceptions of security and security policy responses. In general terms, the systematic use of explosive weapons by state security forces can be seen as marking a transition into conflict. As we have noted, explosive weapons are not generally used for domestic policing.

This blog will monitor humanitarian problems and policy considerations relating to the problem of explosive violence. It will consider public health, medical, development and other economic issues in relation to explosive violence and assess the international policy and legal frameworks currently in place to regulate this phenomenon.

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