Download the Report:
This report identifies indiscriminate bombing of civilians as the overriding factor forcing millions of Syrians to flee their homes. Based on interviews with Syrian refugees in July 2016, a document review, and expert interviews, the report identifies the large scale use of explosive weapons in populated areas as the most significant cause of the mass displacement of Syrians.Sign up
Download the Report
This report features in-depth interviews of more than 200 Syrian refugees in Lebanon who confirm and detail the devastating and lasting social and economic effects of the use of explosive weapons. Over half of the refugees interviewed were displaced within Syria before fleeing to Lebanon, experiencing consequences ranging from personal injury to the death of one of more family members, the destruction of homes, infrastructure and/or livelihoods. The report finds women are most vulnerable.Sign up
Download the report:
This brochure gives an overview of HI's history which is closely intertwined with the fight against armed violence, including the use of anti-personnel landmines, cluster munitions, and other explosive remnants of war. It provides an outline of our unique expertise in demining and land clearance, risk education, and victim assistance.Sign up
According to the NGO PAX, investments in cluster munitions have fallen from $31 billion to $9 billion in the past three years, reflective of a huge drop in support for the use of these internationally banned weapons.
Cluster munitions are bombs that opens mid-air to release hundreds of tiny bomblets that spread out over a wide area. Up to 40% fail to detonate on impact, and, much like landmines, cluster bombs remain “live” for decades. More than 90% of people killed by cluster munitions are non-combatants. However, several countries, including the U.S., continue to stock these indiscriminate weapons, and have yet to join the lifesaving treaty that bans them, the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The dramatic 350% drop in production of cluster munitions is largely due to the fact that U.S. manufactures, Textron and Orbital ATK, have decided not to produce them anymore. However, seven companies continue to produce cluster munitions. The PAX report named 88 financial institutions that continue to invest in these cluster-munition manufacturers.
"Governments are increasingly aware that the use of cluster munitions is unacceptable," says Anne Héry, Director of Advocacy at HI. “120 countries have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but only 11 of them have made it clear to financial institutions that supporting investments in cluster munitions is illegal. More needs to be done. We must work to reduce the sources of funding for these weapons in order to eradicate them."
According to the Cluster Munition Monitor 2018, published in August, cluster munitions were used in Syria and Yemen in 2017. In total, the Monitor recorded 289 new cluster munition casualties in 2017, including Syria and Yemen, and eight other countries where cluster munitions dropped during past conflicts have exploded.
August 31, 2017--The newest annual report on cluster munitions reveals a sharp rise in the number of new casualties of cluster munitions, which more than doubled between 2015 and 2016. Cluster Munition Monitor 2017, co-produced by Handicap International, officially records 971 casualties of cluster munitions in 2016 compared to 419 in 2015. Handicap International calls on States to comply with international law, and to pressure belligerent parties to end the use of this barbaric weapon.
The report finds that 98% of victims of cluster munitions were civilians in 2016, and 41% were children. The conflicts in Syria and Yemen are among the most hazardous in the world for civilians, according to the Monitor.
“In Syria, the use of these weapons shows that the belligerents have a total disregard for civilian lives, and in some cases a deliberate intention to target them,” says Jeff Meer, executive director of Handicap International in the U.S. “Those who survive contact with cluster munition explosions often become amputees, with significant social, economic and psychological consequences for them, their families and their communities.”
Cluster munition usage has been on the rise in Syria since mid-2012. The Syrian conflict alone accounted for 89% of the world’s cluster munition casualties in 2016, that is, 860 victims out of 971. There were 51 new casualties in Laos and 38 in Yemen.
Whereas the vast majority of new casualties were injured or killed in cluster munition attacks, there were 114 casualties of sub-munition remnants in 2016. Because up to 40% of these weapons do not explode on impact, sub-munitions become as dangerous as anti-personnel mines and make entire areas uninhabitable after conflict. Half of accidents reported in 2016 were in Laos, the country most heavily polluted by sub-munitions in the world.
A total of six States and one territory were affected by the use of cluster munitions since January 2015. In addition to Syria and Yemen, the use of cluster munitions was once again reported in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, the subject of a dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and in Somalia in 2016, and Ukraine, Sudan and Libya in early 2015. According to reliable but unconfirmed reports, cluster munitions appear to have been used in Libya and Iraq in 2016 and early 2017.
Handicap International is alarmed by the widespread and uncontrolled use of these banned weapons. “War has rules and the Oslo Convention is part of that,” Meer says. “Every effort must be made to ensure it is enforced and to end the use of this barbaric weapon in conflict situations. States must ratify, defend, and apply the Oslo Convention, and the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention, and other provisions under International Humanitarian Law.”
Around the world, 26 States and three territories remain contaminated by cluster munition remnants. In 2016, nearly 34 sq. miles of land was cleared and 140,000 sub-munitions were made safe and destroyed. In addition to clearing mines, cluster munitions, and explosive remnants of war, Handicap International calls on States to support risk education and victim assistance programs that are also essential for continuing this vital work.
Handicap International calls on belligerent parties - States and non-State armed groups - to immediately end the use of cluster munitions. Handicap International also calls on States to pressure their allies using cluster munitions to end this practice. Lastly, Handicap International calls on all States to enforce the Convention on Cluster Munitions by immediately ending the sale or transfer of these weapons.
The Cluster Munition Monitor 2017 reviews every country in the world, including those not party to the Convention with respect to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the use, production, trade, and stockpiling of cluster munitions, during the period from January 2016 to July 2017.
- Experts available for comment in Washington, DC, and Europe.
- Handicap International advocates will attend the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Geneva, Switzerland from September 4–6, 2017, and are available for comment throughout the conference.
Cluster bombs are weapons containing several hundred mini-bombs called cluster munitions. Designed to be scattered over large areas, they inevitably fall in civilian areas. Up to 30% (or even 40%) do not explode on impact. Like anti-personnel mines, they can be triggered at the slightest contact, killing and maiming people during and after conflicts. By indiscriminately affecting civilian and military targets, cluster munitions violate international humanitarian law.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions banning the use, production, transfer, stockpiling and sale of cluster munitions was opened for signature in December 2008. There are currently 119 State signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
About Handicap International
Handicap International is an independent international aid organization, taking action and campaigning in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 35 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since its founding in 1982, Handicap International has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and to increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Handicap International is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 and the winner of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the world’s largest prize for humanitarians.
Ninety-eight percent of recorded victims of cluster munitions are civilians, according to the Cluster Munition Monitor 2017, an annual report co-produced by Handicap International. These weapons kill, injure, maim, and cause serious psychological trauma. Up to 40% of submunitions do not explode on impact. They render whole areas uninhabitable, prevent the return of normal social and economic life, and displace people from their homes. These explosive remnants pose a threat to civilians, sometimes for decades after a conflict has ended.Read more
Seven years ago, the Oslo Convention banning the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions entered into force. Despite the undeniable success of the convention, cluster munitions were used repeatedly in Syria and Yemen, according to the Cluster Munition Monitor 2016 report.
In Syria, 76 attacks using cluster munitions were documented between September 2015 and July 2016, which is believed to be a conservative estimate. In Yemen, at least 19 attacks were documented between April 2015 and February 2016. Cluster munitions were also used in Sudan and Ukraine until early 2015.
Dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground, cluster bombs are designed to open in the air, releasing sub-munitions over an area equivalent to several football pitches. They kill and maim civilians and combatants indiscriminately. According to the Cluster Munition Monitor 2016 report, 97% of recorded victims of these weapons are civilians. Up to 40% of these sub-munitions do not explode on impact. This endangers the lives of civilians, sometimes for decades after a conflict has ended, and disrupts the economic and social life of contaminated areas.
Progress on the universalization of the convention
Despite this depressing findings, real progress has been made toward the universalization of the Convention on Cluster Munitions over the last seven years. The convention has now been signed by 119 countries, of which 102 are States Parties, making it a powerful arms control instrument. States are increasingly likely to issue official statements when these barbaric weapons are used.
Significant progress has also been made toward their elimination. Since the Convention entered into force, 29 States Parties have destroyed 1.4 million cluster munitions, equivalent to 93% of cluster munitions declared stockpiled by States Parties. Eight States have completed the clearance of areas contaminated by cluster munitions since the Oslo Convention came into force in 2010.