Global Civil Society and the Arms Trade Treaty

•15 October 2014 • Leave a Comment

Global Policy, a peer-reviewed academic journal read widely in scholarly and policymaking circles, has just released online a Special Section of four articles on the Arms Trade Treaty and Global Civil Society. The articles will be published in an upcoming issue, but are available online.

The Special Section was edited by me and written by academics and practitioners who have had varying levels of involvement in the campaign for a “bulletproof” treaty. The essays provide an overview of the treaty, the normative implications of its negotiation and text, the involvement of civil society and a commentary on its potential future impact. I have included here the abstract of the introductory essay “The Arms Trade Treaty from a Global Civil Society Perspective”:

The 2013 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) offers the first comprehensive, global and legally binding standards on the trade and transfer of conventional arms. The idea for the treaty was conceived not in the boardrooms of weapons manufacturers, nor in the assembly halls of statecraft, but rather by civil society activists and Nobel Laureates – practitioners, academics, survivors and researchers and advocates. And its robust provisions on human rights, humanitarian law and gender were championed by states often marginalized by traditional arms control. The resultant treaty is a sort of ‘platypus’ of international law – simultaneously an arms control regime, an instrument of human rights and humanitarian law and a trade agreement. Given its widespread acceptance and likely rapid entry into force, it could have a wide-ranging impact on global policy making in many issue areas. But as with any new framework of global policy, the ATT represents a compromise, recognizing the legitimacy of states’ rights to trade in weapons. This special section on the ATT, written from the perspective of scholars and practitioners associated with the civil society campaign that championed the treaty, reviews the ATT’s normative implications, role of NGOs and implementation challenges.

“Growing autonomy in weapons poses a grave threat to humanitarian and human rights law”

•6 October 2014 • Leave a Comment

I was quoted today in article on growing autonomy in naval weapons, saying:

“Growing autonomy in weapons poses a grave threat to humanitarian and human rights law, as well as international peace and security… In modern combat it is often heartbreakingly difficult to tell the difference between a fighter and a non-combatant.  Such a task relies on a soldier’s wisdom, discretion and judgment; it cannot and should not be outsourced to a machine. Death by algorithm represents a violation of a person’s inherent right to life, dignity and due process. … When the vast majority of countries outlawed anti-personnel landmines — a goal now endorsed by President Obama — they established that weapons which maim or kill absent of direct human control are morally reprehensible.”

Dr. Noel Sharkey — a professor of artificial intelligence, chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control and spokesperson for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots — was also quoted, saying: “Don’t go to the next step. Don’t make them fully autonomous. That will proliferate just as quickly and then you are really going to be sunk.”

To read the full story, click here.

John Oliver Skewers US Dissembling on Drones

•1 October 2014 • Leave a Comment

A Brief History of US Policy on Landmines

•28 September 2014 • Leave a Comment

Over the last few months the US has narrowed the gulf between its own policy on antipersonnel landmines and the strong prohibition favored by most of the world’s countries. At the end of June, the U.S. announced that it will ban the production and acquisition of antipersonnel landmines, draw down its stockpiles and take steps to eventually joining the global ban treaty. Then, in late September, the Obama Administration promised not to use such weapons anywhere but the Korean Peninsula.

To read my history of US landmines policy on MAGAmerica’s blog, click here.

What’s the Peloponnesian War Got to Do with Killer Robots?

•29 August 2014 • Leave a Comment

In an article Cayman Mitchell and I wrote for e-International Relations, we reflect on how ancient debates about the Pelopponesian War offer surprisingly fresh insights into global policy debates about high-tech weapons. By making comparisons to Aristophanes’ play Lysistrata, we show campaigners have resisted states’ claims to ‘know best’ about security matters. They have pushed officials to answer questions about the necessity and risks of killer robots as well as the underlying social norms (including gendered ones) that guide global security policymaking. We argue that we need not be grateful for the ‘protection’ of killer robots, as realists would have us believe; we may instead mimic Lysistrata and humanize the very structure of protection in the 21st century, saving ourselves from killer robots’ de-humanizing violence.

Read our article here.

What Shape Is a Minefield?

•28 August 2014 • Leave a Comment

One of the persistent misperceptions of minefields is that they are like a flat, rectangular, clearly-bounded football field. I’m not exactly sure who to blame: perhaps Hollywood, perhaps the computer game Minesweeper, perhaps simply the word “minefield”. But reality is far more complex.

A minefield often replicates the shape of the conflict that produced it. Contemporary battlefields are rarely like the neatly divided board of the game Risk or chess. Ambushes, improvised explosive devices, remote aerial attacks and the shifting allegiances of fragmented factions mean there are no clear divisions between “safe territory” and the “war zone”.

For more of my reflections on the shape of minefields, read this article I wrote for MAG America’s latest newsletter.

John Oliver on America’s Shocking Nuclear Carelessness

•17 August 2014 • Leave a Comment

To learn more on what you can do to help abolish nuclear weapons, click here.


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