During the 1990's the international community became aware of the humanitarian consequences caused by anti-personnel (AP) mines. Yet the problems produced by other forms of unexploded ordnance had not been widely examined. Consequently, there were very few rules of international humanitarian law to minimize the civilian casualties caused by weapons other than AP mines following the end of an armed conflict.
At an expert meeting held in Nyon, Switzerland in September 2000, the ICRC called upon States to strengthen the law in this area. Specifically, it proposed that States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) negotiate a new protocol on "explosive remnants of war" (ERW). The purpose was to reduce the threat posed by unexploded artillery shells, mortar shells, hand grenades, cluster munitions, bombs and similar weapons often found after the end of active hostilities. The issue was subsequently placed on the agenda of the preparatory meetings for the Second CCW Review Conference that took place in 2000 and 2001.
When the Review Conference convened in December 2001, there was wide support for work on explosive remnants of war, and States Parties established a Group of Governmental Experts to examine ways to address the problem. The Group met for three sessions in 2002 and considered a range of measures on the clearance of ERW, the provision of warnings to civilians and the sharing of information among organizations and parties to the conflict. The Group also considered improvements on the fusing of certain weapons and restrictions on the use of cluster munitions.
When States Parties met in December 2002, there was growing consensus that a new protocol could be concluded on post conflict measures to minimize the impact of ERW, and the Group of Governmental Experts was mandated to negotiate the instrument. Separate from its negotiations, the Group also continued its work on the fusing of certain weapons and restrictions on the use of cluster munitions. After holding negotiating sessions in March, June and November 2003, the Group finalized and submitted a draft protocol for States Parties to consider.
The Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War was adopted by States Parties on 28 November 2003. It is the first multilateral agreement to deal with the wide range of unexploded and abandoned ordnance that regularly threaten civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers after the end of an armed conflict. Importantly, the negotiations and adoption of the final text included all the major military powers. Together with the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines, the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War is an important element in the efforts to end the post-conflict death, injury and suffering that is a regular feature of modern warfare.