Innovations and developments in diverse areas of science and technology, from neurotechnology to new materials, and from information technologies to nanotechnologies, have the potential for significant and diverse impacts on human society, which bring both benefits and risks. The application of novel technologies in the military sphere, including new weapons, means and methods of warfare bears special risks.

Army evaluates DARPA’s futuristic soft exosuit Photo credit: U.S. Army RDECOM

Early consideration of potential military applications of scientific and technological advances is important for building a common understanding of the environmental, ethical, health, legal and security implications of novel technologies or practices of violence, anticipating emerging risks and formulating adequate international responses.

Establishing processes to effectively review advances in science and technology has been a key concern in the field of biological and chemical weapons control for many years. In 2016, the Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) decided to consider how relevant developments in the field of science and technology can be addressed within the framework of that treaty (see UN Document CCW/CONF.V/10, Decision 4).

Starting this summer, Article 36 is leading a 2-year project (2017-2018), funded by Switzerland, designed to work towards the establishment of an effective international framework to ensure scrutiny of developments in science and technology with implications for the international control of conventional weapons. The CCW can provide a forum for inclusive, informed, public debate and review of such developments.

Specific project objectives include:

  • Undertake comprehensive, accessible and policy-relevant research on areas of development in science and technology relevant to the objectives and purposes of the CCW
  • Provide accessible technical evidence, references and scientifically sound findings on key areas where relevant developments are underway, including resource documents and case-studies on specific research and weaponisation proposals
  • Engage a number of stakeholders through interviews, interventions in the context of the CCW and meetings to frame initial conceptual approaches to science and technology developments of particular concern as a basis for further, informed discussion

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