Humanitarian Assistance Webcast: New Warfare Technologies, New Protection Challenges

Release Date: 
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Recent scientific and technological advances have given rise to unprecedented means and methods of warfare. Some of these new technologies — such as observation and combat drones — are already in use, while others — for example, nanotechnologies, combat robots, and laser weapons — are still in experimental stages.

These developments have, and will continue to, profoundly change the ways that modern actors engage in armed conflict. On the one hand, these technologies can not only limit civilian losses but also can spare the lives of combatants. On the other hand, certain features of these new technologies raise unprecedented issues that make the legality of an attack more difficult to ascertain and the attribution of responsibility more complex.

This Humanitarian Action Webcast, produced in partnership with the International Review of the Red Cross, will explore contemporary technological developments and will discuss the resulting challenges that emerge for humanitarian protection. Specifically, this webcast will examine the following questions:

  • To what extent have new technologies changed the way that modern actors think about conduct during armed conflict?
  • What are the legal challenges and considerations that access to advanced technologies bring forth?
  • How can and should humanitarian agencies harness new technology?
  • How do new technologies influence traditional views and operational strategies for humanitarian intervention and humanitarian assistance?

Expert Commentators:

  • Mr. Claude Bruderlein, Strategic Advisor, International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Ms. Bonnie Docherty, Senior Researcher in the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch, instructor at the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School
  • Professor Brian Rappert; Sociology, Philosophy & Anthropology Department; University of Exeter
  • Professor Noel Sharkey, Emeritus Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Professor of Public Engagement, University of Sheffield; Chairman of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control
  • Professor Michael Lewis, Ohio Northern University, Claude W. Pettit College of Law
  • Dr. Peter Singer, Director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence and a Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Program, Brookings (providing introductory comments)

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