Under the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (AMBC) and the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), signatory States are obliged to destroy all their anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions. Yet, the destruction of banned weapons under international treaties constitutes only a small portion of the immense task of stockpile destruction. Ammunition found in stockpiles may be banned, obsolete, dangerous or simply missing the corresponding weapon system. The problem is particularly significant in countries where basic rules of ammunition safety management are not followed.
Incidents of unplanned explosions are increasing with a current average of two-three ammunition storage explosions each month, causing thousands of casualties, significant damage to infrastructure and exacerbating contamination by scattering munitions over previously safe land. Depending on storage conditions, over time, degradation may result in the leakage of extremely sensitive by-products, which may result in detonation. Furthermore, items aged 20 years or over are particularly susceptible to fires. The most common cause of unplanned explosions is fire.
The GICHD studies and communicates best practices in stockpile destruction, ammunition ageing and, at policy level, observes the international conventions and guidelines that regulate the use and storage of explosive ordnance. The Centre’s personnel are available to advise and assist in the disposal of explosive items that are banned. This assistance extends to all countries planning to destroy ammunition stocks but lacking the expertise to do so. In addition to providing advice on techniques, methods and technologies in the destruction work, the GICHD’s services include ammunition inspections, life cycle planning and recommendations on measures for safety and security for people and infrastructure.
Any ammunition that poses, or has the potential to pose, a hazard to the surrounding area should be disposed of at the earliest opportunity. The ASM Toolset contains instructions on how to:
On methods to protect ammunition stockpiles from external and internal factors, the ASM toolset details: