PAX works to increase transparency and regulation of the use of armed drones (unmanned aerial vehicles).
The use of unmanned aircrafts, also known as drones, has increased dramatically in the last decade. While drones were previously put to work for reconnaissance and surveillance, 2002 saw the introduction (in Yemen) of the first armed version. Since 2003, armed drones have been used for combat support operations during military interventions in, for example, Iraq and Afghanistan. Also there have various been extrajudicial killings using drones by, among others, the CIA in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Through these actions, there is a high probability that many hundreds of innocent civilians, including dozens of children, have lost their lives.
The use of drones raises various moral, ethical and legal questions. Can someone controlling a drone in Afghanistan from a base in the U.S. make the right decision over life and death? Also, research shows that the continuous presence of drones creates anxiety and psychological trauma among communities. And will the extrajudicial killings set a precedent for other states to use armed drones, and will this lower the threshold for the use of armed violence to resolve conflicts? The crucial question is whether armed drones can and will contribute to the protection of civilians in armed conflicts.
Existing arms export controls are currently failing to provide an adequate response to the increasing use and export of both military and civilian drones. In the report Unmanned and Uncontrolled PAX provides a number of recommendations to strengthen the control on export of drone-technology and calls for a wide debate over the use of armed unmanned systems in and outside conflict areas.
PAX drafted policy recommendations on using armed and unarmed drones and is working on a more stringent monitoring of drone technology exports.
PAX has done research on what the deployment of drones means for human security. You can find the results in a report entitled ‘Does Unmanned make Unacceptable? Exploring the Debate on Using Drones and Robots in Warfare’.
The production, trade in and use of unmanned military systems needs unambiguous guidelines to prevent these weapons from falling into the wrong hands and to prevent their unlawful use. PAX wants to open an international discussion on the usefulness and need for drones and wants the Dutch government to take a firm position on how it wants to use drones and how this contributes to human security within the remit of the Dutch armed forces.
Wim Zwijnenburg, Policy Advisor Security & Disarmament