Global Campaign against IEDs: Overview

During 2010, in Iraq and Afghanistan, there were 233 improvised explosive device (IED) incidents per month[i]. There were an additional 89 incidents, or almost three incidents per day, in the rest of the world. The IED is becoming the weapon of choice for those advancing their objectives through terror and violence. Exclusively military solutions to the IED problem have not and will not be successful. We[1] propose an alternative approach combining the rule-of-law; fact-based information campaigns; and locally led sustainable development initiatives. Country-specific applications of our approach will lay the foundation for a Global Campaign against IEDs.

IEDs are an emerging global epidemic

 With 323 incidents per month worldwide in 2010 and 89 incidents per month excluding Iraq and Afghanistan, the IED is a clearly established weapon of choice for those who use terror and violence to achieve their objectives. Historically, these incidents have occurred in a variety of situations including conflict and post-conflict environments (Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine); illegal drug operations (Mexico, Columbia, Peru); insurgencies (Chechnya, Russia, Nigeria, Northern Ireland); election-related violence (Kenya, Nigeria, Ivory Coast); religious crises (India, Pakistan, Nigeria); ethnic conflicts (Nigeria, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Serbia); and other terrorism events (United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France). As a final example, the perpetrator of the July 2011 attack in Oslo, Norway described the IED as a “marketing tool” for his extremist views.

In 2008 and 2009[ii], global IED incidents were documented at 291 and 308 per month respectively. In 2006 during a six month period Landmine Action[iii] found 1,836 incidents of explosive devices in populated areas across 38 different countries. Sixty percent (1,105 or 184 per month) involved “bombs” or “car-bombs”—predominantly IEDs. These combined data indicate that IED use is likely proliferating.

The 2008 and 2009 incidents involved an estimated 13,771 killed (84% civilians) and 44,506 wounded (88% civilians). There were 196 killed and 28 wounded among those who deployed the IEDs. In cases where these incidents occurred in populated areas some 90% of reported casualties were civilians. Cumulatively just for Nigeria, Thailand, and India there were over 1,621 killed or injured in 2009 and 2010. In these three countries incidents rose 44% in 2010 as compared to 2009.

In Mexico, drug-related proliferation of illegal small arms and associated violence—known as precursors to IED use—foreshadowed the vehicle-borne IED incident in Cuidad Juarez on 15 July 2010. From no reported attacks in 2009, there were six additional IED incidents[vi] through January 2011.

These trends underscore the seriousness of the IED problem. Innocent civilians, most often women and children, bear the brunt of the suffering. Those in affected areas live in fear of additional attacks that disrupt everything from daily routines, to health care to elections. When displacement, destruction, and loss of personal assets are added to this mix[v] sustainable livelihoods are severely degraded. With no central, universally trusted repository that tracks IED incidents, the actual impacts are likely greater than depicted.

The IED is a significant global threat to stability, sustainable development, human rights, and humanitarian operations. Even so, they are inevitably framed as an exclusively military problem. It is our position that a purely military response will never halt the proliferation of IEDs; eliminate civilian casualties; or address the root causes of IED production networks.

Our approach to the IED problem

 Our approach is comprehensive using appropriate military and non-military efforts and is guided by the Capital Analysis and Performance Strategy (CAPS) SM. CAPS[vi], unlike traditional approaches that view problems through a single domain specific lens (e.g. health, political), analyzes problems and produces solutions using multiple lenses that correspond to seven capital forms (Political, Natural, Economic, Infrastructure, Cultural, Social, and Human). It recognizes the capital forms are related and interdependent where a change in one may dramatically influence others. At its core, CAPS is a holistic approach focused on doing and responding to needs with sustainable solutions.

Military approaches emphasize responses that attack the network, defeat the device, and train the force. In practice this targets the infrastructure used to produce and deploy IEDs; provides protection of military forces against IEDs; and enables military personnel to survive IED attacks. This focus ignores the socio-economic, cultural, and other root causes that enable the use of IEDs. It also does nothing to reduce the negative psychological impact (e.g., chronic fear) from a systemic threat of IED use. Neither militaries nor police are trained to deal with these issues—nor should they be. In our view, the military-focused response in Iraq and Afghanistan has had limited effect; it is failing and exacerbating the problem in Nigeria and other developing countries; and is not implementable in a democracy. Resolving the IED problem is the responsibility of the global community. PIF’s approach, guided by CAPS, has three core elements with two optional technology enablers. Each of these elements is described below.

Neutralize IED networks. The first element is an application of CAPS that neutralizes[2] existing IED networks and prevents new ones from forming. A key focus will be putting IEDs on the global agenda soliciting independent advice and commentary regarding their impact on security, stability and development. This frames the problem as a shared challenge for the global public-private community, and brings together the various cultures in the Whole of Government (WOG) and development communities. It builds trust between a government, its population, and the solution partners. This trust is essential for supplanting IED networks with sustainable livelihoods. In addition, the CAPS methodology allows us to simultaneously address multiple nodes in the IED network emphasizing up-stream interventions. This is in contrast to military solutions that can only address nodes amendable to their kinetic approach.

It is important to note that applying the CAPS to the central problem of IEDs has farther reaching consequences For example, one of the root causes producing IED networks in Nigeria is the fact that only a few benefit from the country’s oil revenue. Corruption in government and the oil sector divert funds from public works. Consequently, infrastructure (hospitals, schools, roads, sanitation,) is inadequate and pollution ruins fishing and agricultural industries. This, in turn, creates and fosters negative social capital producing militants. The accompanying reduction in Nigeria’s political capital manifests in the population’s loss of trust in their government, police, and the law. This creates and supports bad bonding social capital, especially in youths, marked by extremism and militancy. The result is a cultural environment tolerant of IED networks. Solutions that focus solely on apprehension of IED network members do not resolve these root causes. As a result new recruits are always available. CAPS broadens the dialogue to include participants beyond governments—it embraces the whole community. In so doing the real causes of militancy, extremism, and violence are eliminated and those who use IEDs lose political and social capital making them ineffective.

Fact-based information campaign. The second core element of our approach is a fact-based positive reinforced information campaign composed of several components. First is a partnership between local and international mainstream media to promote reporting of balanced and accurate IED information using a variety of communication technologies. Second is engaging both civilian and military populations through social media as a focused and integral part of the solution to the IED problem. Third is an education component countering instruction (e.g. teaching children terrorism is patriotic and a religious right) that builds negative social capital. Taken together these three components will undermine the foundation of IED networks before and after they form. The final component is objective reporting of all IED incidents and activities by both traditional media and civil society using social media. This will help ensure opposing parties become accountable for their actions and reduce the likelihood that any one party can create and use misinformation for their own advantage. In addition to strengthening the role of media, the information campaign will inform the population and influence the political, cultural, and social capital of the various parties. This influence will be positive or negative based on their actions, transparency, and honesty—IEDs and those who use them will be forced out of the shadows.

Social media, and its associated wisdom of the crowd, is a critical enabler for this information campaign. Social media has distinct advantages in reach, accessibility, usability, immediacy, and permanence over traditional media types. Social media such as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, GovLoop, and blogs will be used to engage and involve everyday people in the campaign against IEDs engendering positive bonding social capital. Social media has influenced global change ranging from human rights reform to the toppling of governments. It can help stop IEDs. Effective use of social media in the information campaign will be essential in supporting other strategic components.

Apply the rule of law. The third and last element is applying international rule of law to IED incidents. This immediately and effectively moves IEDs from a military problem to a law enforcement problem emphasizing the crime rather than the political background and motivation of the attackers. Arguments will shift to center around the fact that IED attacks are illegal under existing international law allowing the local community to build a public stigma against the use of IEDs. Implementation of this rule of law element also promotes police reform and accountability; good governance; international and local human rights; accessible and integrated systems of international and local justice; human rights inquiry, implementation and protections. In the end, IED users will be seen as criminals committing a crime and not making a political statement. After the July 2011 incident in Oslo, Norway correctly focused on the perpetrator’s crime effectively removing political views from the dialog on guilt and innocence.

Technology Enablers. While the technology described here is not a requirement for success, it is a very important element. We envision two technology-based enablers as part of our overall approach: (1) The IED Alert and Reporting System and (2) The IED Incident Tracker. Both make their primary contribution to the fact-based information campaign with secondary contributions to the rule of law element and measuring the success of our approach. Each enabler is described below after the underlying foundation for these technology efforts is introduced.

We plan extensive use of mobile technologies using a foundation based on the open source Ushahidi platform [ www.ushahidi.com ] providing crowd-sourced information collection and visualization. Implementing our two enablers will require several modifications to Ushahidi. Our objective will be to create open source plug-ins that will be made available to the larger Ushahidi community.

The IED Alert and Reporting System using a combination of Internet and mobile phone technologies has two primary goals. The first is to produce verified (through carefully defined due diligence) alerts of IED deployments with the objective of reducing casualties and damage. The second is a method for the public to contribute IED-related information. A pictorial representation of this system is shown in Attachment A. This system has the unique potential to actively engage local populations by providing a communications venue that includes citizens, opposition, government and police which could be used to communicate about a variety of community-based issues engendering positive social capital.

The goal of the IED Incident Tracking System is to establish an independent, objective, and trusted global repository of verified IED incidents. The objectives are (1) a map-based view of these incidents available to local citizens as part of the fact based information campaign and (2) an underlying database of sufficient quality and structure to serve analysts tracking the success of our efforts. The data from the system will be made available to all interested parties in downloadable formats appropriate for further analysis to facilitate a truly accurate count of global IED incidents.

Anticipated outcomes

As a long-term effort the goals and objectives of our approach will be refined over time based on experience, evolved best-practices, and input from the global community. Our initial goal is to show quick return on investment through a pilot implementation in a selected project county. The objectives of that implementation would be:

  • Reduce IED use and the adverse effects on civil society across the capital forms;
  • Neutralize existing IED networks and prevent new ones from forming;
  • Mobilize the global community against IEDs and those who use them through social media that capitalizes on the wisdom of the crowd; and
  • Strengthen international rule of law framing IEDs in neutral, non-political terms.

A successful application of our approach will:

  1. Eliminate the advantage perpetrators receive from using IEDs;
  2. Coordinate public-private efforts across the seven capital forms to eliminate IED network support while building sustainable livelihoods for local populations;
  3. Shift the primary responsibility for neutralizing IED networks from the military to the community by enforcing the rule of law; and most importantly;
  4. Be locally based, led, and owned by the project country population[vii].

All of this is accomplished in the context of the extended benefits that accrue when the seven capital forms are balanced enabling self-sufficient and sustainable livelihoods. These outcomes become durable by establishing IEDs as a unifying issue at the national and local levels. This will initiate and sustain dialogue on a variety of issues that form the root causes for IED use and the networks that produce them.

Further detail about the Global Campaign, its implementation, measures of effectiveness, and how you can support our efforts is available by contacting partners@partners-international.org.




Figure 1. The IED Alerting and Reporting System



[1] The Global Campaign against IEDs is a combined effort of Partners International Foundation [ www.partners-international.org ] and its Center for Applied Innovation [ www.caihq.com ]

[2] Military forces attack the network using predominantly kinetic solutions that result in civilian casualties and property damage. Our approach neutralizes existing networks by rending them ineffective and prevents new networks from becoming functional—without negative impacts on civilian populations.



[i] WITS, the National Counterterrorism Center, [ wits.nctc.gov ]. Data retrieved 12 Sep 2011.

[ii] WITS, the National Counterterrorism Center, [wits.nctc.gov ]. Data retrieved 12 Sep 2011.

[iii] Richard Moyes, Policy and Research Director, Landmine Action, Presentation to the Group of Governmental Experts of Amended Protocol II of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW): IEDs and explosive violence – framing the humanitarian problem, 20 April 2009, page 3.  For additional information on the relationship between landmines and IEDs see Campaign Update: Landmines and IEDs.

[iv] Personal communication from United States Department of State, Overseas Security Advisory Council.

[v] United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict 2009, January 2010, page i.

[vi] The goal of CAPS is four-fold. The first is a disciplined analysis to clearly define the problem, root causes, and relationships among the seven capital forms—the as is state. The relationships among the capital forms in this as-is state guides recognition of root causes and solutions. This ensures solutions do not promote efforts in one capital form while producing negative impacts on others. Second, existing efforts are reviewed. Decisions to maintain them as best practices or divest them are informed by the analysis of the as-is state. Third, potential solutions are prioritized using a variety of metrics including direct and indirect Return on Investment (ROI). These metrics are derived from quantitative and qualitative variables with well established relationships to the capital forms. Fourth a locally led holistic approach with immediate implementation ensures the knowledge, skills, and associated capabilities are transitioned to the project country in a sustainable manner. You can find more information about CAPS at [ www.partners-international.org/sustainablelivelihoods/capital-formation.html ]

[vii] PIF’s approach is designed to invest in entrepreneurship, innovation, and engagement of civil society through social media that scales from a local to national level in four stages. Sustaining our approach is supported by hiring and training local citizens to execute the program, creating jobs in the process. Execution of the program is gradually transitioned to the project country—at various levels—as the stages progress. Scaling the project begins with Stage 2 after a successful Stage 1 pilot implementation guided by PIF. In Stage 2 we will transition key capabilities to a project country-based CAPS-trained team at the local level. In Stage 3, the program trains members of the national CAPS team selected by the project country government and expands into other local areas. Stages 3 and 4 transitions the CAPS capability to the project country government for deployment as a national program where it will directly impact the entire population. In stage 4 the transfer of capability to the project country is complete and PIF remains available only as required for future assistance and long distance mentoring.