The purpose of the Convention is to ban or restrict the use of specific types of weapons that are considered to cause unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering to combatants or to affect civilians indiscriminately. The structure of the CCW – a chapeau Convention and annexed Protocols – was adopted in this manner to ensure future flexibility. The Convention itself contains only general provisions. All prohibitions or restrictions on the use of specific weapons or weapon systems are the object of the Protocols annexed to the Convention.
The original Convention with three annexed Protocols were adopted on 10 October 1980 and opened for signature for one year from 10 April 1981. A total of 50 States signed the Convention, which entered into force on 2 December 1983.
The initial three protocols are Protocol I on Non-Detectable Fragments, Protocol II on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby Traps and Other Devices and Protocol III on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons.
Pursuant to Article 8, Paragraph 3 (b) of the Convention, Protocol IV on Blinding Laser Weapons was negotiated and adopted on 13 October 1995 during the First Review Conference of the States parties to the Convention and entered into force on 30 July 1998. At the same Review Conference, the States Parties strengthened the rules on landmines, booby-traps and other devices by adopting, pursuant to Article 8 Paragraph 1 (b) of the Convention, an amended version of Protocol II in response to the increasing human toll taken by these weapons. The Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996, or usually referred to as Amended Protocol II) entered into force on 3 December 1998.
At the Second Review Conference of the States parties to the Convention, which took place in Geneva, 11 to 21 December 2001, the States Parties decided to address the issue of the scope of application of the Convention and its annexed Protocols. As originally adopted, the Convention applied only to situations of international armed conflict. Realizing the fact that most conflicts today occur within the borders of a State, the States Parties agreed to amend the Convention, in accordance with its Article 8, Paragraph 1 (b), so that it also applies to situations of non-international armed conflict. The Amendment to Article 1 of the Convention entered into force on 18 May 2004.
The most recent of the Protocols annexed to the Convention, Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War was adopted on 28 November 2003 by the Meeting of the States Parties to the Convention. The Protocol, which is the first multilaterally negotiated instrument to deal with the problem of unexploded and abandoned ordnance, is intended to eradicate the daily threat that such legacies of war pose to populations in need for development and to humanitarian aid workers operating in the field to help them. Pursuant to Article 5 Paragraph 3 of the Convention, Protocol V entered into force on 12 November 2006.