In response to the weapon export policy released by the Trump administration on the 19th of April, several EFAD experts have given their views on what could lead to a significant increase in armed drone exports. In particular countries with poor human rights records, or those who wish to use them in secretive lethal operations, will benefit from these changes. EFAD will soon release a collective statement on this new US policy change.
Rachel Stohl, managing director of the Stimson Centre highlighted the lack of transparency in the decision-making processes regarding the new policy:
“It is of great concern that the policy itself is classified – continuing the Trump administration’s rollback of transparency with regard to UAS. US export policy cannot be considered in a vacuum and is directly related to the U.S. use of drones that has been secretive and which sets a risky international precedent.”
Daniel Mahanty, director of CIVIC’s US programme, pointed out the human rights implications:
“The new policy is clearly intended to make it easier to sell more American weapons in more places with fewer delays. This policy, like the one it replaces. makes a rhetorical commitment to human rights and the laws of armed conflict and to reducing civilian casualties. Only the specific details of implementation can give that rhetoric any meaning.”
Wim Zwijnenburg, program leader at PAX, underscored the ways in which the proliferation of drones will likely lead to more states using these in a manner similar to the precedent set by the United States:
“The decision loosens barriers on export controls and includes vague references to ‘proper use’ that leaves open many interpretations. There is reason for concern that more States will resort to the use of lethal force in military and counter-terrorism operations, especially without significant transparency and accountability measures.”
All three experts point out the risks which the new export policy is creating, whether with regard to human rights, international security, or the undermining of international law. Placing economic benefits above these concerns will harm both the US and the rest of the world in the long run. It is therefore imperative that, as Zwijnenburg said, the international community works together “to establish clear standards and a normative framework for their use, and engage on a multilateral level to discuss the political, legal and ethical concerns around drone warfare.” To find out how EFAD and her members work to achieve this goal, read our Call to Action.