Futureproofing Is Never Complete: Ensuring the Arms Trade Treaty Keeps Pace with New Weapons Technology

With an increasing global market for unmanned technology, distinctions between civilian and military applications are easily blurred. Some new robotic systems can be sold separately from the guns that attach to them and thus might not fall into the definition of a weapon (until armed), despite their deadly potential. Future conflicts will likely see increasing use of these weapon systems, providing both states and non-state actors with new capabilities to use lethal force. These capabilities stretch the boundaries of the international laws of war and redefine the interpretations of what constitutes a battlefield. This is already posing new humanitarian, human rights and arms control challenges.

It is clear from reading the Arms Trade Treaty text that its intention is to regulate the broad range of conventional weapons, including the examples of robotic systems listed in the previous section. However, it is incumbent on civil society and concerned states to remain vigilant since some states or manufacturers acting in bad faith may try to claim the presence of loopholes.

Read the full report by Matthew Bolton and Wim Zwijnenburg for ICRAC here.