Lethal Autonomous Weapons: Issues for the International Community

Original photo source: E&T

On May 13-16 a United Nations (UN) expert meeting will discuss ‘questions relating to emerging technologies’ in lethal autonomous weapon systems. Such systems are distinguished by being mobile and selecting targets autonomously without direct human supervision. This type of expert meeting represents the lowest rung of the UN ladder. The Chair of the meeting will simply write up a report to be presented later in 2014 to the annual discussions by States on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. But the expert meeting in May could be the start of a process which might see the development of new national and international law to regulate or prohibit the use of artificial intelligence without human supervision in weapon systems. Read More

Activists, Authorities and the Problem of Telling the Difference

Michael Maier, via Wikimedia.

Discussion about who killed Anna Mae Aquash of the American Indian Movement in the 1960s raises some interesting thoughts regarding what takes place when governments and challengers square off against one another. Underlying most research on the topic and popular understanding is the idea that governments and challengers represent different sides of a conflict – each has their own motives for engaging (i.e., ideology or goals), their own means for engaging (e.g., identified as “mobilizing structures” in the social movement literature) and their own sense of opportunity (i.e., when the time is ripe to strike). We alternatively call this “intrastate conflict processes” or “the conflict-repression nexus” (for the political science oriented among us) and “contentious politics” or “protest-protest policing” (for the sociological oriented). This approach has influenced how researchers study the topic and, as a result, it has broadly influenced what we can know.

Those interested with conflict, this a major problem.

Read more in the blogpost at Political Violence @ a Glance published 29 April, 2014


Arctic – the zone of confrontation

When Nezavisimaya gazeta published an article entitled “Arctic – the zone of confrontation”, I paid scant attention assuming that it was just an effort to remind that Ukraine was not everything. But then Putin held the meeting of the Security Council and ordered to set up a super-commission that would supervise all Arctic policies. Nikolai… Read more »

Rwanda, Remembrance and Research: Or, How Rwandan Violence Taught Me to Embrace Subnational/Disaggregated Conflict Studies and Integral Conflict Research

Genocide victims. Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: Adam Jones, Ph.D., via Wikimedia.

Fourteen years ago I began a journey to understand the political violence that took place in Rwanda during the year of 1994. Toward this end, I brought with me the skills that I had at that time: 1) an interest in media as well as government-generated data and content analysis, 2) an approach that was pooled at the nation-year, cross-sectional and time series in nature, and 3) an interest in state repression/human rights violation. All of this would change when confronted with Rwanda. Indeed, after full immersion into the case (from about 2000-2004, as well as reflection over the next ten years), I moved from being mostly interested in media and government sources to being mostly interested in human rights NGOs; I became more interested in the variation within countries than between them; and,I was no longer just interested in state repression/human rights violation but essentially every form of political violence.

Rwanda has this type of effect on you.

Read more in the blog post published at Political Violence @ a Glance on April 10, 2014




Climate Change and War

IPCC Cover

The day after the publication of the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the effects of climate change, Norwegian daily newspaper Dagsavisen was able to report that Norway’s Minister for Climate and Environment now envisaged a future world with more conflicts. This is in line with claims made earlier by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Against this background, I embarked with some anticipation on the report’s 2,679 pages. I found that each of the four chapters that address this question gives a slightly different answer.Read More

Spitsbergen sovereignty

Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen has published my argument that in the fast-moving escalation of the crisis around Ukraine, Moscow could try to exploit Norwegian sensitivity to the Spitsbergen sovereignty. I certainly do not want to give the policy-makers in the Kremlin ideas, but the pressure point is too obvious to miss. It fits perfectly into the… Read more »

This Week in South Sudan – Week 15

Sunday 6 April A Nuer community meeting in Juba claimed that 17,613 Nuers have been killed since the outbreak of violence 15 December 2013. Monday 7 April IGAD announced that the seven former detainees who have formed the group, the ‘SPLM7’ will be excluded from the peace talks. South Sudan Security Service announced that they… Read more »

This Week in South Sudan – Week 14

Monday 31 March 36 civilians killed in clashes in Duk County, Jonglei. Heads of World Food Programme and UNHCR visited South Sudan. Peace talks suspended until 30 April. Tuesday 1 April Prosecution witness Aleu Ayieny Aleu withdrew as witness in the treason court case. The African Union Commission of Inquiry of South Sudan opened its… Read more »

Issues for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots was launched in April 2013 with the objective of achieving a ban on the development, production and deployment of lethal autonomous weapons. In May 2014, the issue will be discussed by a UN expert meeting under the auspices of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva. At this stage, it is inevitable that there will be much debate and discussion over the scope and meaning of any future prohibition. The Campaign is still being shaped, and what will be necessary for its success is that over the next few years a group of states and governments coalesce around a shared understanding of the problems and its solutions.Read More

Treason Case in South Sudan: Why now?

While peace negotiations between the SPLM/A and the SPLM/A-in-Opposition have entered a third round in Addis Ababa, the government of South Sudan is in the process of putting several of South Sudan’s most prominent politicians on trial. The court case is highly politicised and inextricably linked to the struggle for power in South Sudan. Shortly… Read more »