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ENSAYO 2012: South Asian essay writing competition on international humanitarian law

20-04-2012 Event

Organized by the Centre for Advanced Study in International Humanitarian Law (CASH), RGNUL in collaboration with the ICRC, Regional Delegation for South Asia, New Delhi.

Event Info

Where: India

When: 20.04.2012-15.06.2012

Theme: Explosive remnants of war

What are explosive remnants of war?  

Explosive remnants of war (ERW) is the term used to describe the wide range of explosive ordnance – unexploded or abandoned – that remains in an area after an armed conflict has ended. It includes artillery shells, grenades, mortar shells, submunitions, rockets, missiles and other explosive devices.

Why are ERW a problem that needs to be addressed?  

Thousands and sometimes millions of pieces of explosive ordnance are regularly left behind after the end of an armed conflict. These include munitions that have failed to explode as intended after being fired or delivered (unexploded ordnance) or munition stockpiles left near battlefield positions (abandoned ordnance). Clearing these weapons has often taken years or even decades depending on the scale of the problem. Predictably, large numbers of men, women and children are killed or injured when they come into contact with these weapons before they can be safely disposed of. Many civilians mistakenly believe that ERW are harmless, when in fact they are often lethal and unstable, capable of detonating if touched or disturbed.

In addition to the casualties incurred, ERW hinder reconstruction, the return of refugees, the delivery of humanitarian assistance and other essential activities. ERW prolong the effects of war even after the fighting parties have agreed on a peace settlement.

The problem is not new. ERW have been a by-product of nearly every armed conflict in modern times. An estimated 84 countries are affected by ERW, and some have been grappling with the problem for decades.  For example, in Laos, somewhere between 9 and 27 million unexploded submunitions remain, although hostilities ended in 1975. Around 11,000 people in Laos have been killed or injured by ERW, more than 30 per cent of whom were children. Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iraq, the Russian Federation (Chechnya) and Sudan are just a few of the countries seriously affected by ERW as a result of recent conflicts.

Even short-lived conflicts can result in a major ERW problem. During the armed conflict in mid-2006, Lebanon became littered with unexploded submunitions and other ERW. According to the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre in Southern Lebanon, over 35 million square metres of land are contaminated. Since the end of the war, more than 200 civilians have been killed or injured. In addition, thousands more civilians are denied access to their land, as the contaminated area covers approximately 26 per cent of Lebanon’s arable land.

What is the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War?      

The Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War is a new and important treaty of international humanitarian law. It was adopted by States party to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) on 28 November 2003 and is the fifth protocol to that convention. It entered into force on 12 November 2006, and as at April 2012, 76 States were party to the instrument. The protocol provides a systematic framework to minimize the dangers posed to civilian populations by unexploded and abandoned ordnance. This is the first international agreement to require the parties to an armed conflict to clear ERW once the fighting is over. The protocol does not cover anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines, as these weapons are regulated by other international agreements.

Although the rules of Protocol V apply only to conflicts that occur after its entry into force, States already affected by ERW when they become party are accorded “the right to seek and receive assistance” from other States Parties to address their ERW problem. In parallel, States Parties that are in a position to do so are obliged to help ERW-affected States reduce the threats posed by the weapons and to provide assistance for the marking and clearance of ERW, for risk education and for the care, rehabilitation and social and economic reintegration of ERW victims.

The Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War must be ratified by all countries and its provisions implemented as a matter of urgency in order to reduce the number of new victims each year. The spread of weapons capable of delivering huge amounts of explosive ordnance across great distances means that the problem will become even more acute unless the measures set forth in the protocol are universally applied.

The ENSAYO Essay Competition

The ENSAYO Essay competition is open to university students from the disciplines of Law, Political Science, Sociology, Psychology, Defence Studies, International Relations, Medical Sciences, Mass Media and Journalism from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Iran, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Participants may choose to write on any topic within the ambit of the theme of the competition, that being “Explosive Remnants of War.”