understand topic

Understanding the vocabulary


Armed violence and its reduction

HI defines Armed Violence as the intended or unintended use of weapons, threatened or actual, to inflict injury, impairment, death or psychosocial harm, which undermines the safety, security and
development of individuals and communities. Armed Violence Reduction (AVR) and Prevention programmes aim to reduce the risks and effects of armed violence, thus contributing to a wider outcome: building resilience and socio-economic development.1

1 Inspired from:

The Geneva Declaration “Global Burden of Armed Violence”, Geneva, 2008:

The OECD policy paper “Armed Violence Reduction, Enabling Development”, 2009:

Understanding the vocabulary


Focus terminologies of arms

To know the definitions of:
  • Conventional weapons
  • Small Arms and Light Weapons
  • Ammunitions
  • Improvised Explosive Device

Conventional Weapons:

Weapons that are not weapons of mass destruction (e.g. nuclear, chemical and biological):

  • Mines: arm designed to be placed under, on or near the ground or other surface area and to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or a vehicle.
  • Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) refers to explosive munitions left behind after a conflict has ended, and includes both Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and Abandoned Explosive Ordnance (AXO).
  • Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) refers to bombs, rockets, grenades, mortars and other types of explosive weapons which have failed to explode when fired or on impact, and lie on the ground in a dangerous, sensitive state, able to explode at any moment.
  • Abandoned Explosive Ordnance (AXO) refers to unused munitions left behind when a conflict ends, which are no longer under the control of the combatants who left them there.

Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW):

  • Small Arms: any man-portable lethal weapon designed for individual use that expels or launches, is designed to expel or launch, or may be readily converted to expel or launch a shot, bullet or projectile by the action of an explosive.
  • Light Weapons: any man-portable lethal weapon designed for use by two or three persons serving as a crew (although some may be carried and used by a single person) that expels or launches, is designed to expel and launch, or may be readily converted to expel or launch a shot, bullet or projectile by the action of an explosive.


  • Ammunitions (munitions) refers to complete devices charged with explosives, propellants, pyrotechnics, initiating composition, or nuclear, biological or chemical material for use in military operations, including demolitions.
  • Cluster munition refers to a conventional munition that is designed to disperse or release explosive sub-munitions each weighing less than 20 kilograms, and includes those explosive submunitions.

Improvised Explosive Device (IED):

A device placed or fabricated in an improvised manner incorporating destructive, lethal, noxious, pyrotechnic or incendiary chemicals and designed to destroy, incapacitate, harass or distract. It may incorporate military stores, but is normally devised from non-military components. Within the umbrella term ‘IED’ there lies a wide variety of devices, of different sizes, purposes, construction, sophistication, complexity, life-span and emplacement (again much as with ERW). IEDs can be classified into five main categories based on their means of initiation:

  • Time initiated: A method of a time delay is set, when that time has passed, the device functions.
  • Command initiated: Require a physical link (i.e. command wire and power source) or non-physical link (remotely initiated, i.e. mobile phone) to be initiated.
  • Victim operated: Initiated by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or animal.
  • Projected IED: A direct (i.e. improvised rocket) or indirect explosive device (i.e. improvised mortar) that can be initiated by victim, command or time.
  • Suicide IED: An explosive device that is hidden on or near the person and is initiated by that person in an attempt to kill themselves and others.

For HI for instance, victim operated IEDs and anti-personnel landmines definitions are quite similar as they fall under the current Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.

Understanding the vocabulary


Focus terminologies of Humanitarian Mine Action

To know more about the mine action spectrum:
  • Mine risk education
  • Humanitarian demining
  • Victim assistance
  • Stockpile destruction
  • Advocacy

Mine Action (IMAS 04.10)

Mine action is not just about demining. It is also about people and societies, and how they are affected by landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination. The objective of mine action is to reduce the risk from landmines and ERW to a level where people can live safely; in which economic, social and health development can occur free from the constraints imposed by landmine and ERW contamination, and in which the victims’ different needs can be addressed.
Mine action comprises five complementary groups of activities (the 5 pillars of Humanitarian Mine Action):

  • Mine Risk Education: activities which seek to reduce the risk of injury from mines/ERW/IEDs by raising awareness of men, women, and children in accordance with their different vulnerabilities, roles and needs, and by promoting behavioral change through public information dissemination, education and training, and community liaison.
  • Humanitarian demining: activities which lead to the removal of mine and ERW hazards, including technical survey, mapping, clearance, marking, post-clearance documentation, community mine action liaison and the handover of cleared land. Demining may be carried out by different types of organizations, such as NGOs, commercial companies, national mine action teams or military units. Demining may be emergency-based or developmental.
    Note: in IMAS standards and guidelines, mine and ERW clearance is considered to be just one part of the demining process, and demining is considered to be one component of mine action.
  • Victim Assistance2 : refers to all aid, relief, comfort and support provided to victims (including survivors) with the purpose of reducing the immediate and long-term medical and psychological implications of their trauma.
  • Stockpile destruction: the physical destructive procedure towards a continual reduction of the stockpile of explosive ordnance.
  • Advocacy: in the context of mine action, the term refers to public support, recommendation or positive publicity with the aim of removing, or at least reducing, the risk from, and the impact of, mines and ERW.

For more information, see: Victim Assistance in context of mines and explosive remnants of war, Policy Paper, Handicap International, 2014 : http://www.hiproweb.org/uploads/tx_hidrtdocs/PP11VictimAssistance.pdf

Understanding the vocabulary


Focus terminologies of surveys

To know the definitions of:
  • Pre and Post Impact Assessment KAP-oriented
  • Contamination Impact Survey
  • Non-Technical Survey
  • Technical Survey
  • SALW surveys
  • SALW control

Pre and Post Impact Assessment (PIA) KAP-oriented:

PIA aims at measuring the impact of Armed Violence Reduction intervention on the affected community and more specifically on the evolution of their Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP oriented assessment) related to armed violence. It consists of a baseline/pre-assessment and one or more endline/post-assessments. PIA uses a nonrandomised sampling method, which targets indirect beneficiaries of armed violence reduction (AVR) activities and should be representative in terms of target groups, age and gender.

Contamination Impact Survey (CIS):

Quickly assesses the extent of potential contamination from mines/ERW/IEDs after conflicts. The survey maps, and when possible marks, potential dangerous areas and also gathers data from the community such as socioeconomic blockages resulting from actual or perceived contamination.

Non-Technical Survey (NTS) (IMAS 04.10):

Refers to the collection and analysis of data, without the use of technical interventions, about the presence, type, distribution and surrounding environment of mine/ERW contamination, in order to define better where mine/ERW contamination is present, and where it is not, and to support land release prioritisation and decision-making processes through the provision of evidence.

Technical Survey (TS) (IMAS 04.10):

Refers to the collection and analysis of data, using appropriate technical interventions, about the presence, type, distribution and surrounding environment of mine/ERW contamination, in order to define better where mine/ERW contamination is present, and where it is not, and to support land release prioritisation and decision making processes through the provision of evidence.

Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) surveys (ISACS 01.20):

Collection and analysis of comprehensive quantitative and qualitative information on small arms and light weapons within a specific geographical area (e.g. region, country or community) with a view to determining the need for and nature of safe, effective and efficient interventions by appropriate stakeholders.
They seek to determine:

  • The nature and extent of the spread and impact or small arms and light weapons;
  • Public and stakeholder perceptions regarding small arms and light weapons, armed violence and related issues;
  • The capacity to respond to the challenges posed by small arms and light weapons.
  • SALW surveys are sometimes referred to as “baseline assessments”, “mappings” or “national assessments”.

SALW control:

Activities which aim to reduce the social, economic and environmental impact of uncontrolled SALW proliferation, availability, accessibility, use and misuse on individual, community and national safety and security.

Legal framework and international standards: Quick reminder


Main International and
Humanitarian Law Instruments

Armed Violence Reduction is supported by many legal instruments at international level.

The Declaration of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development3:

Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels” (Goal#16)

  • “16.1: Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere.”
  • “16.2: End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.”
  • “16.4: By 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime.”
  • “16.a: Strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime.“

International Humanitarian Law4:

  • “The principle of distinction requires that the parties to an armed conflict distinguish at all times between civilians and civilian objects on the one hand, and combatants and military objectives on the other, and that attacks may only be directed against combatants and military objectives. The purpose of this is to protect individual civilians, civilian property, and the civilian population as a whole. Under this principle, indiscriminate attacks are prohibited.”
  • “The principle of proportionality, a corollary to the principle of distinction, dictates that incidental loss of civilian life and property or injury to civilians must not be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.”
  • Protection of civilian population and vulnerable people, including those in occupied territory is mentioned in Geneva Convention IV5.

Charter on inclusion of persons with disabilities in Humanitarian Action (2016)6

This charter has been developed in advance of the World Humanitarian Summit (23rd and 24th of May 2016, Istanbul) by over 70 stakeholders from States, UN agencies, the international civil society community and global, regional and national organisations of persons with disabilities. Revolving around 5 core principles (non-discrimination, equal access to services for everyone, full participation of persons with disabilities in crisis decision-making, development of global guidelines and policies, sharing of expertise and cooperation between all actors), it aims at lifting barriers persons with disabilities are facing in accessing relief, protection and recovery support and ensuring their participation in the development, planning and implementation of humanitarian programmes. It has been endorsed by 140 signatories (as of August 2016).

Examples of others instruments

  • International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)7, about the legality of the use of explosive weapons.
  • The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence8, which is a diplomatic initiative aimed at addressing the interrelations between armed violence and development.

Legal framework and international standards: Quick reminder


Disarmament Treaties and Instruments

Ottawa Convention / The Mine Ban Treaty (MBT, 1997)9

Is about Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. The Maputo Action Plan 2014-201910(adopted at the Third Review Conference) aims for significant and sustainable progress towards the commitment to ending the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel mines for all people for all time.

Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW,1980)

And its five Protocols of 1980 (I, II and III), 1995 (IV)11, and 2003 (V) : Prohibits and restricts the use of certain conventional weapons which may be deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects. Divided in five protocols, two of them are related to mine action: Protocol II deals with landmines, booby-traps and other devices, and Protocol V deals with the problem of ERW.

Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM,2008)12

Prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of Cluster Munitions. Separate articles in the Convention are about assistance to victims, clearance of contaminated areas and destruction of stockpiles. The Dubrovnik Action Plan 2015-202013 was adopted at the First Review Conference of the Convention and seeks to ensure effective implementation of the provisions.

Arms Trade Treaty (ATT,2013)14

Aims to reduce the countless deaths and suffering caused by the transfer of conventional arms across the borders by asking signatory countries to put in place standards for their international sale. This includes an assessment system that evaluates the risk that arms could be used for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Human Rights Treaties and Instruments

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1958)15:
    Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1989)16:
    Article 6: 1. States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life. 2. States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD, 2006)17: This convention depends on a vision of an inclusive society in which everyone has the same rights and opportunities.

Legal framework and international standards: Quick reminder


Main standards

In arms-related fields, it is crucial to know, understand, respect and apply international, national and the organisation’s standards.

International Mine Action Standards (IMAS)18

Have been developed to improve safety, efficiency and effectiveness in mine action and to promote a common and consistent approach to the conduct of mine action operations. IMAS provide guidance, establish principles and, in some cases, define international requirements and specifications19. They provide a frame of reference, which encourages the sponsors and managers of mine action programmes and projects to achieve and demonstrate agreed levels of effectiveness and safety. They provide a common language, and recommend the formats and rules for handling data, which enable the accurate and timely exchange of important information. The standards in force for all UN mine action operations are listed20. Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) operators have to comply with IMAS requirements when National Mine Action Standards are not defined or do not exist.

National Mine Action Standards (NMAS):

Agreements that set the minimum requirements for mine action in a given country. They adhere to the principles of IMAS, reflect local laws and conditions, drafted through a consultative process involving all stakeholders, and are endorsed by the National Mine Action Authority.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs):

Instructions that define the preferred or currently established method of conducting an operational task or activity at programme/country level. Their purpose is to promote recognisable and measurable degrees of discipline, uniformity, consistency and commonality within an organisation, with the aim of improving operational effectiveness and safety. SOPs should reflect local requirements and circumstances.

International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG)21

Provide a frame of reference, which encourages national authorities responsible for conventional ammunition stockpile management to achieve and demonstrate effective levels of safety and security. They provide a common language, are based on sound and accepted explosive science, recommend an integrated risk and quality management system, and allow for a progressive, integrated improvement in safety and security in line with available resources.

International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS)22

Are voluntary international standards that provide practical guidance on putting in place effective controls over the full life-cycle of small arms and light weapons so as to reduce the risk of their falling into the hands of those who would misuse them. They seek to provide clear, practical and comprehensive guidance to practitioners and policymakers on fundamental aspects of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) control. The standards fit within the global framework created by the UN Programme of Action, the International Tracing Instrument and the UN Firearms Protocol and the Arms Trade Treaty; and build upon best practices elaborated at regional and sub-regional levels.

IMAS: http://www.mineactionstandards.org

In this case, international requirements and specifications refer to those treaties, international laws and conventions, international agreements, international ISO standards etc. that have already been agreed to by participating nations.

List of IMAS: http://www.mineactionstandards.org/standards/international-mine-action-standards-imas/imas-in-english/


ISACS: http://www.smallarmsstandards.org/




Stakeholders and their roles

Armed Violence Prevention activities involve many stakeholders at different levels. In order to organise the activities and avoid mistakes, it is important to study which actor will regulate, validate, be responsible, operational, facilitator or will have a consultative part.
Depending on the context, the programme/project managers will have to properly assess and analyse their roles, interactions, their different interests and influences, through the initial diagnosis and surveys.
Also refer to:

Stakeholders and their roles by level

Stakeholder international

Armed Violence Prevention (AVP)


An Armed Violence Reduction Unit
within Handicap International

The AVR Unit is responsible for the development and application of policies and standards related to Armed Violence Reduction. It mobilises programmes and missions to apply the unit’s guidelines and ensure that quality requirements are met. It encourages and supports the development of innovative methods and techniques to improve AVR.

Two sectors compose this Unit: the Armed Violence Prevention (AVP) sector and the Arm Safety Management and Disposal (ASMD) sector. They provide technical assistance, advice, support and guidance to programmes and projects (currently 20 countries).

They are responsible for:

  • Supporting the strategic development of AVP/ASMD programmes, projects or activities;
  • Ensuring quality control and evaluation;
  • Capacity development;
  • Innovation and knowledge management;
  • Networking and external relations.

Through capacity building and a participative approach, AVR activities implemented in emergency and open conflict contexts aim at changing behaviours and involving the community to take over this safety dynamic. It empowers people to break the cycle of violence, feel safer and socio-economically resilient. It mitigates the short and longer-term effects of the conflict.

Armed Violence Prevention (AVP)


The activities of
Armed Violence Prevention

This guide is about the Prevention sector of AVR: The green part of the diagram.

Activities related to Armed Violence Prevention are developed in many projects, many contexts and take many forms, keeping the same objective: To keep the population safer from risks related to arms by changing their behaviours. Thus contributing to a wider outcome: Building resilience and socio-economic development.

The Armed Violence Prevention sector has three main interventions:

  • On a wide level: public information through mass media;
  • Risk education on a more specifically targeted context and its at-risk populations;
  • A contamination impact survey will allow marking the threats and prioritising the technical intervention according to the community’s socioeconomic needs.

To define and prepare these three main interventions, factsheets are proposed in the next part (Practical guide) to help project managers implement Armed Violence Prevention activities.

The first factsheet – Initial diagnosis – will help project managers, coordinators and all people involved in writing a project to assess the needs and build a project addressing those needs, in accordance with basic quality standards.
See Activity factsheet 1 – Initial diagnosis

After that, the factsheets detail activities to be implemented according to the considered response:

During these activities, several transversal elements and approaches must be used:

Photo credits

Understanding the vocabulary / © Serge Pouzet
A. Till Mayer / B. Hugues Laurenge / C. Almeras Benoît / D. Damien Kremer

Legal framework and international standards / ©
A.  Feltner Molly / B. John Rodsted / C. Axelrod Nicolas

Stakeholders / © Lucas Veuve
Axelrod Nicolas

The armed violence Prevention (AVP) / © Olivier Lenoble

End / © Cathy Badonnel