SCID Panel of Experts – Online Guest Lecture – Steven Smith MBE – The Global Humanitarian Harm from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)

This is the 14th Online Guest Lecture by members of the SCID Panel of Experts. Steven Smith MBE presents a lecture entitled The Global Humanitarian Harm from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

steven smithSteven Smith is the Chief Executive of Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a UK-based, international NGO. In this role, he has overseen a broad range of activities, including agricultural training for former combatants in Liberia, landmine clearance in Western Sahara, arms control measures in Sierra Leone, and armed violence reduction programmes in Burundi.

In this Lecture, Steve talks about the role of his organisation, AOAV, in mine action and the global threat posed by IEDs. Steve discusses the number of casualties and how casualty rates compare over time, in different countries, and according to the type of weapon used. The Lecture also considers the different users and primary target locations, as well as detonation methods (for example, suicide attack or victim-activated). The Lecture refers to various incidents (such as the Moon Market bombings in Lahore and suicide bombings in Nigeria).

Steve’s analysis shows that IEDs are the weapon of choice for non-state actors, civilians are casualties more often than armed actors, and that the worst attacks happen in populated areas. Steve also underscores that behind each statistic is a person killed or injured. Steve also draws attention to the fact that harm is not just physical: commerce, infrastructure, education, and families all suffer from the use of IEDs.

Steve draws the Lecture to a close by analysing what can be done to address the threat posed by IEDs, concluding that key preventative measures include stigmatisation, control of precursor materials, and security of military stockpiles.

Click below to access Steve’s Lecture. NB Should the presentation not run automatically or the audio not work, please click ‘Save As’ (and then open once you have saved on your computer) rather than ‘Open’. Alternatively try a different browser (Firefox rather than Internet Explorer).

The Global Humanitarian Harm from Improvised Explosive Devices – SCID Lecture Apr 2016 – Steven Smith MBE – Show

Please submit any questions or comments within the next two weeks for Steve’s attention and/or discussion by other SCID Panel members, students and staff.

5 thoughts on “SCID Panel of Experts – Online Guest Lecture – Steven Smith MBE – The Global Humanitarian Harm from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)

  1. elclappitan

    Thank you very much for this fascinating presentation. I was aware that civilian casualties as a result of IED use were high, but it was shocking to see exactly how high they were!

    With regards to the recruitment of children, what is the ratio of willing to unwilling recruits? Are the any of the former agreeing to take part because of a lack of legitimate educational or vocational opportunities? If so, would investment into better education help to combat the problem or are the root causes too complex for this to have a meaningful impact?

    Thanks again for taking the time to prepare this for us


  2. mpmoon

    Thank you very much for such an informative presentation.

    Both the Small Arms Survey and the Carnegie Institute of Peace have highlighted the emerging threat of 3D printing in relation to SALW and nuclear explosives respectively.

    I am wondering if you might kindly speak to whether there is a similar trend emerging in relation to IEDs and, if so, what measures are under discussion to mitigate their proliferation.

    Thank you again, for sharing your expertise in these matters.


    1. ssmith126

      Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, we don’t have data on the number of volunteer child suicide bombers as against those that have been coerced. What we do know is that numerous children have been kidnapped by Boko Haram, and that that group uses a high proportion of child suicide bombers. We also know that indoctrination plays a large part in the creation of a suicide bomber. So, whilst Daesh’s ‘Cubs of the Caliphate’ may ‘volunteer’ for such missions, it is hardly a free choice when shaped by hatred, peer-pressure, cultural expectations and religious fundamentalism. You raise a fair point in that child suicide bombers come from environments where education and vocational opportunities are in short supply – ie, in areas of conflict and fragile states. Of course, trying to implement educational and vocational programmes in such countries is often impossible. Indeed, in some parts of the world, even trying to educate young girls can invite a death sentence – as we saw in the case of Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan.When it comes to adult suicide bombers, although the same motivations may apply, it is surprising how many come from educated backgrounds. For example, one of the 7/7 bombers in London attended Leeds Metropolitan University. There is some evidence to suggest that better-educated suicide bombers are assigned to higher-value targets (see The Economist, ‘Exploding misconceptions’, 16 Dec 2010).


    2. ssmith126

      For mpmoon, thank you for your question. I have never seen 3D printing used in relation to IEDs. That is not to say that it hasn’t been, or that it won’t be in future. However, there are probably good reasons why such technology is not used for IEDs. First, IEDs don’t need to be complicated to be effective – the masses of victim-operated pressure-pad devices used in Afghanistan, paralysing movement by the Security Forces, illustrate the point. Secondly, IEDs are the weapon of choice of non-state actors; therefore, access to advanced technology may prove difficult. That said, I can see the potential for 3D printer use when it comes to manufacturing IEDs that are ‘projected’ – for example, home-made anti-armour weapons and improvised mortars.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. mpmoon

        Thank you, for your kind reply.

        I now understand a great deal more than I did (Alas, I have never been involved in any professional which relates to weapons, so I apologise if my question was a tad ‘numpty’ in nature).

        I remain concerned, however, that 3D printing could “automate” device building and provide three advantages:
        1/ scalability in the actual production and/or dissemination of knowledge for building parts or wholes
        2/ escalating effectiveness due to the consistency of design
        3/ transport of non-detectable plastic parts

        I hold this opinion based on economist Jeremy Rifkind’s work in the collaborative commons and the emerging ‘internet of things’…which if it moves to the dark net could prove especially problematic for security specialists.

        Finally, I know from work I have done in Nigeria on braille printing projects that while instituting specialist technology can be a bit arduous in certain regions, the transfer of expertise and formation of reliable supply chains can gain sufficient momentum to become sustainable.

        Again, I remain most grateful for your insight.


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