During this year’s UN General Assembly First Committee, sixteen States mentioned the use of armed drones in their statements – a significant increase from the six countries in 2017. Article 36′ Elizabeth Minor, who has been keeping track of drone mentions for Reaching Critical Will’s First Committee Monitor, noted that many of the statements given by States on drones took place in context of ‘ethical, legal and other challenges of various emerging technologies and concerns, such as autonomous weapons, cyber, and outer space‘. Other States expressed their worry about the current ways in which drone strikes are carried out, and how these violate human rights, undermine international law, and cause unnecessary harm among communities. Several States even called for international discussions and regulations addressing the use of armed drones.
The rise in attention paid by States to the issues of the use of armed drones mirrors the activities undertaken by civil society on the very same topic: At the beginning of First Committee, 54 organizations called upon States to take action on drones this year. EFAD members like Article36 and PAX, together with other NGO’s, have also organized events and handed out briefing papers in what appears to have been a successful effort to raise awareness and engage with states.
The need for movement within the UN on this critical issue is also warranted, as existing restrictions on the US drone program under president Trump have been severely weakened, the number of drone strikes are increasing, and the number of drones, drone users, and drone producers continues to rise. Therefore, it is now more important than ever that States engage in an open, inclusive, ambitious and multilateral process aimed at creating effective international regulation of use and export of armed drones.