International Review of the Red Cross

Selected Article on International Humanitarian Law

Enhancing civilian protection from use of explosive weapons in populated areas: building a policy and research agenda

John Borrie and Maya Brehm*


Every day, and in a range of contexts, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas harms civilians. Evidence is growing that elevated levels of civilian harm fit a recurrent pattern, suggesting that more coherent and effective humanitarian responses are needed to enhance civilian protection, especially changes in behaviour of users of explosive weapons. This article describes the effects of explosive violence, critically examines how the existing humanitarian law regime tends to address this issue and explores some current developments in building a research and policy agenda to try to reduce civilian harm from the use of explosive weapons.

John Borrie is a Senior Fellow at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and led its project on ‘Discourse on Explosive Weapons’.

Maya Brehm manages UNIDIR's ‘Norms on Explosive Weapons’ project.


* The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the United Nations, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), its staff members, or sponsors. The authors extend their thanks to Richard Moyes and anonymous reviewers for their comments.