Explosive Weapons

Explosive weapons use a chemical reaction to cause a high-explosive charge to detonate and damage or destroy a target.They generate three primary damage mechanisms: blast, fragmentation, and thermal effects. Such weapons may be fired singly, as in an aerial bomb, or in salvos of many dozens, such as rocket artillery.

This pattern of explosive violence, particularly when these weapons have wide-area effects, is of grave concern, as it tends to cause harm beyond the targeted area.

Wide-area effects weapons, when used in populated areas, make them inherently prone to causing civilian harm and might include:

  • A large destructive radius
  • Inaccurate delivery systems
  • The design for area effect, as in barrage weapons
  • The potential for civilian harm is magnified when such features are combined

Motivated by its strategic goal to improve human security and equipped with subject expertise in explosive hazards, in January 2015, the GICHD established a research project to characterise explosive weapons. The GICHD perceives the debate on explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) as a humanitarian issue and this research project was conceived of to help inform the ongoing disucssions on EWIPA, intended to reduce the harm to civilians. 

Since the research began, the project's Final Report - Explosive Weapons Effects, as been published, as well as a series of five annexes on weapons systems. A simulator showing explosive weapons effects is also due to be released in spring 2018. In addition, the GICHD is contributing its expert advice to the ongoing EWIPA discussions on the level of international policy.