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Measuring the Reverberating Effects of Explosive Weapons Used in Populated Areas

Composite image, background photo by Jerome Bishop.

The United Nations Institute of Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) has published a new research framework to help measure the extensive, reverberating consequences of explosive weapons use in populated areas.

The use of explosive weapons sets in motion a series of complex knock-on effects that spread out over time and space in urban ecosystems, with negative consequences for civilian well-being and the environment in which people live. These “reverberating effects” manifest across a wide range of interlinked sectors, including urban infrastructure, public health, education, culture and heritage, food security, economic prospects, and adverse environmental impacts.

Adverse environmental impacts can include the risk to people from debris, hazardous materials (e.g. asbestos, industrial chemicals, fuels, polychlorinated biphenyls) and waste. This includes debris from the destruction of buildings in which building materials are pulverized, as well as chemical spills and ground contamination arising from damage to industrial facilities, and pollution from the damage of wastewater sanitation or the collapse of other waste management infrastructure.

The purpose of this resource is to offer indicators to document knock-on effects and potentially inform and influence the policy and practice of parties to conflict. By using a standardized set of indicators, the data generated can be leveraged to build a comparable evidence base reflecting the consequences to civilian well-being and to inform high-level decision-making on policy and practice.

Menu of indicators to measure the reverberating effects on civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. UNIDR, 23 February 2021.

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