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What Weapons are Banned or Restricted in War?

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Infographic visualizing weapons that are banned in war

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What Weapons Are Banned or Restricted in War?

For thousands of years, there have been rules to control the types of weapons in warfare—for instance, the use of poison in armed combat was forbidden in Ancient Greece.

But it wasn’t until the 19th century that international agreements were made to legally regulate the types of weapons that are allowed (and banned) in wars around the world.

This graphic outlines the weapons that are banned or limited in war, according to international humanitarian laws that are outlined in the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

CCW and The Five Protocols

The CCW, also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention, is an international agreement that restricts the use of weapons that have been deemed unnecessarily cruel and inhumane.

Currently, there are 125 State Parties involved in the agreement, with signatures from an additional four states. In the CCW, there are five protocols outlined that restrict or limit the use of the following weapons:

  • Non-detectable fragments: weapons specially designed to shatter into tiny pieces, which aren’t detectable in the human body. Examples are fragmented bullets or projectiles filled with broken glass.
  • Mines, booby traps, and other devices: This includes anti-personnel mines, which are mines specially designed to target humans rather than tanks.
  • Incendiary weapons: Weapons that cause fires aren’t permitted for use on on civilian populations or in forested areas.
  • Blinding lasers: Laser weapons specifically designed to cause permanent blindness.
  • Explosive remnants of war: Parties that have used cluster bombs in combat are required to help clear any unexploded remains.

It’s worth flagging that, under the CCW, the use of cluster bombs is not outright banned. However, their use and production is prohibited under separate legislation called the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM).

At this time, the CCW does not have enforcement processes in place, or systems to resolve any breaches of the agreement.

The Chemical Weapons Convention

Another international treaty that aims to limit the use of unnecessarily dangerous weapons is the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which prohibits the creation, acquisition, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons by State Parties.

examples of banned and controlled chemical weapons

193 State Parties have signed the CWC, and one more state (Israel) has technically signed the agreement but hasn’t yet made it official.

Syria signed the agreement back in 2013, but according to reports from UN human rights investigators, the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on numerous occasions throughout its ongoing civil war.

Is Russia Using Prohibited Weapons in Ukraine?

In the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine, it’s been reported that Russia’s been using several weapons that are banned by international legislation, including cluster bombs and explosive weapons. Harvard Law expert Bonnie Docherty explains why these weapons are so dangerous:

  • They scatter submunitions over vast areas of land, meaning they can hit unintended targets
  • Many don’t explode and end up laying dormant for years

According to reports from Human Rights Watch, Russia has been using cluster bombs in several areas of Ukraine, such as the heavily populated city of Mykolaiv, and in Solyani, a suburban area just outside of Mykolaiv.

AI in Weapons and Warfare

Over the last few decades, certain protocols and restrictions in the CCW have been amended and changed based on societal changes and technological improvements.

So, as military weapons continue to improve, and technology like commercial drones become more common, proper legislation around drone use in warfare may be necessary.

Currently, there is no international legislation that bans the use of drones in war. However, several global defense companies are popping up to try and find ways to counter these new military technologies. In fact, the global addressable market for counter drones and tracking systems is estimated at $10 billion worldwide.

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Maps

Charted: Contributions to UN Peacekeeping Forces by Country

In 2023, the UN Peacekeeping Forces, under the purview of the Security Council, comprised of more than 60,000 personnel from 118 countries.

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A cropped chart showing the funding and personnel contributors to UN Peacekeeping forces, and location of current missions.

Charted: Contributions to UN Peacekeeping Forces by Country

An earlier version of this graphic was posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

With their sky blue helmets, berets, and badges, the UN Peacekeeping forces are meant to be a symbol of international cooperation in conflict zones around the world.

They’re composed entirely from voluntary contributions from UN Member States—and include police and civilian roles along with military personnel.

The visualization by creator Preyash Shah serves as a primer on the UN Peacekeeping forces. It shows which countries are the biggest personnel contributors, which of them are top funders, and also lists the current ongoing peacekeeping operations. Data for this chart comes from the UN Peacekeeping archives.

Countries by Troop Contributions to UN Peacekeeping (2023)

From South Asia, a trio of countries—Nepal, Bangladesh, and India—are each contributing more than 6,000 personnel to the UN peacekeepers.

A majority of these representatives are soldiers, heavily involved in the four active peacekeeping missions in Africa.

RankCountryPersonnel
1🇳🇵 Nepal6,247
2🇧🇩 Bangladesh6,197
3🇮🇳 India6,073
4🇷🇼 Rwanda5,919
5🇵🇰 Pakistan4,164
6🇮🇩 Indonesia2,717
7🇬🇭 Ghana2,664
8🇨🇳 China2,267
9🇪🇬 Egypt1,739
10🇲🇦 Morocco1,715
11🇹🇿 Tanzania1,544
12🇪🇹 Ethiopia1,509
13🇸🇳 Senegal1,194
14🇿🇦 South Africa1,133
15🇨🇲 Cameroon1,103
16🇺🇾 Uruguay1,016
17🇿🇲 Zambia996
18🇹🇳 Tunisia988
19🇲🇳 Mongolia898
20🇮🇹 Italy872
21🇲🇾 Malaysia865
22🇲🇼 Malawi802
23🇲🇷 Mauritania787
24🇧🇮 Burundi769
25🇰🇭 Cambodia734
26🇪🇸 Spain688
27🇺🇬 Uganda654
28🇫🇷 France587
29🇱🇰 Sri Lanka561
30🇰🇷 South Korea545
31🇮🇪 Ireland458
32🇰🇪 Kenya456
33🇳🇬 Nigeria421
34🇹🇬 Togo408
35🇩🇪 Germany383
36🇯🇴 Jordan357
37🇫🇯 Fiji339
38🇧🇯 Benin319
39🇦🇷 Argentina292
40🇹🇭 Thailand289
41🇬🇧 UK280
42🇻🇳 Viet Nam274
43🇷🇸 Serbia271
44🇵🇪 Peru262
45🇸🇰 Slovakia244
46🇵🇹 Portugal239
47🇩🇯 Djibouti226
48🇧🇹 Bhutan219
49🇬🇹 Guatemala218
50🇫🇮 Finland204
51🇵🇱 Poland202
52🇨🇬 Congo189
53🇸🇻 El Salvador187
54🇦🇹 Austria177
55🇱🇷 Liberia161
56🇧🇫 Burkina Faso156
57🇹🇷 Turkiye154
58🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire132
59🇬🇷 Greece103
60🇳🇪 Niger88
61🇷🇺 Russia88
62🇬🇲 Gambia81
63🇧🇷 Brazil79
64🇬🇳 Guinea74
65🇵🇾 Paraguay59
66🇳🇴 Norway51
67🇷🇴 Romania49
68🇿🇼 Zimbabwe49
69🇨🇦 Canada47
70🇭🇺 Hungary38
71🇧🇦 Bosnia & Herzegovina34
72🇦🇲 Armenia33
73🇧🇳 Brunei Darussalam29
74🇸🇪 Sweden29
75🇲🇱 Mali28
76🇧🇴 Bolivia27
77🇺🇸 U.S.27
78🇦🇺 Australia26
79🇸🇱 Sierra Leone26
80🇵🇭 Philippines21
81🇨🇭 Switzerland19
82🇨🇿 Czech Republic18
83🇰🇿 Kazakhstan18
84🇲🇽 Mexico18
85🇭🇳 Honduras17
86🇨🇱 Chile15
87🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan15
88🇹🇩 Chad14
89🇭🇷 Croatia13
90🇳🇱 Netherlands13
91🇪🇨 Ecuador11
92🇩🇴 Dominican Republic10
93🇳🇦 Namibia10
94🇲🇩 Moldova10
95🇲🇹 Malta9
96🇩🇰 Denmark8
97🇳🇿 New Zealand8
98🇸🇮 Slovenia7
99🇪🇪 Estonia6
100🇲🇪 Montenegro6
101🇨🇴 Colombia5
102🇲🇬 Madagascar5
103🇦🇱 Albania4
104🇯🇵 Japan4
105🇱🇻 Latvia4
106🇧🇪 Belgium3
107🇩🇿 Algeria2
108🇦🇴 Angola2
109🇦🇿 Azerbaijan2
110🇧🇼 Botswana2
111🇨🇾 Cyprus2
112🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea2
113🇹🇱 Timor-Leste2
114🇱🇹 Lithuania1
115🇲🇰 North Macedonia1
116🇶🇦 Qatar1
117🇸🇹 Sao Tome & Principe1
118🇹🇯 Tajikistan1
N/A🌐 World66,839

Source: Troop & Police Contributors, United Nations Peacekeeping.

However, these three countries—and the others in the top 15—are outliers when looking at overall troop contributions.

Of the 118 countries currently volunteering forces to the UN, 103 of them have fewer than 1,000 UN Peacekeepers.

The U.S. for example currently has only 27 personnel in the peacekeepers, as of November 2023. Of them, 21 are staff officers, four are “experts on mission,” and two are police; none are troops.

Other countries that have zero “boots on the ground” include: Canada, Japan, and Australia.

Countries by Financial Contributions to UN Peacekeeping (2021)

While all UN member states are mandated to contribute to the peacekeeping budget, the share of financial contributions is similarly unevenly distributed.

Most of the world’s largest economies are also the top funders to the UN peacekeeping forces.

For the financial year 2020–2021, the U.S. contributed nearly $2 billion to the UN peacekeepers, followed by China ($1 billion), Japan ($563 million), Germany ($401 million) and the UK ($381 million).

RankCountryRegionContributionEstimated Value
(USD Millions)
1🇺🇸 U.S.North America27.89%$1,835
2🇨🇳 ChinaAsia15.21%$1,000
3🇯🇵 JapanAsia8.56%$563
4🇩🇪 GermanyEurope6.09%$401
5🇬🇧 UKEurope5.79%$381
6🇫🇷 FranceEurope5.61%$369
7🇮🇹 ItalyEurope3.30%$217
8🇷🇺 RussiaAsia3.04%$200
9🇨🇦 CanadaNorth America2.73%$180
10🇰🇷 South KoreaAsia2.26%$149
N/A🌐 RoWN/A19.52%$1,284
N/ATotalN/A100%$6,579

Source: How We are Funded, United Nations Peacekeeping.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council carry a greater financial responsibility to the peacekeeping budget, in accordance with their security council privileges.

Ranked: Current UN Peacekeeping Missions by Personnel (2023)

As of November, 2023, there are 11 active UN peacekeeping missions in operation. There have been more than 60 peacekeeping operations since 1948; the first one was established in Palestine to oversee the truce between Arab and Jewish communities.

RankLocationEstablishedUNPK Personnel
1🇨🇫 Central African Republic201418,448
2🇸🇸 South Sudan201118,412
3🇨🇩 DRC201017,971
4🇱🇧 Lebanon197810,385
5🇸🇩 Sudan &
🇸🇸 South Sudan
20113,388
6🇸🇾 Syria19741,331
7🇨🇾 Cyprus19641,017
8🇪🇭 Western Sahara1991468
9🇮🇱 Israel &
🇵🇸 Palestine
1948375
10🇽🇰 Kosovo1999353
11🇮🇳 India &
🇵🇰 Pakistan
1949104

Source: Where We Operate, United Nations Peacekeeping.

A key tenant of the missions is to protect civilians and human rights, and several of them have failed in this regard, including the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the decade of Balkan civil wars.

And peacekeepers themselves have also garnered less than stellar reputations, after perpetrating sexual abuse in the Central African Republic and Congo, and causing a cholera epidemic in Haiti in 2010.

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