Early December 2017, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) published a study with possible ways to address the risks and challenges surrounding the use of armed drones. The report is an outcome of consultations held with States, civil society and experts over the course of a year. EFAD members Elizabeth Minor (Article36) and Wim Zwijnenburg (PAX) were part of these consultations.
While the proliferation of armed drones is rapidly expanding and related technology continues to become more sophisticated, a consensus within the international community on how to apply international principles to the use of armed drones is lacking. The report identifies and addresses key concerns in this context.
In sum, armed drones are challenging the maintenance of international security and stability, undermining the rule of law, and have a negative effect on the protection of civilians. These factors add up to a pressing need for a strengthening of shared understandings of transparency, oversight and accountability with regard to using armed UAVs. The study offers recommendations to such ends that contribute to international cooperation, such as greater information sharing, working within multilateral institutions and frameworks, and engaging in discussions on norms and best practices. The report recommends to establishing a mandate for work on improving transparency, accountability and oversight of armed UAVs in all their aspects. If such a process would be taken forward by the UN General Assembly, it should be ambitious, inclusive, and comprehensive.