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Article 36 Reviews: Dealing with the Challenges posed by Emerging Technologies

Article 36 reviews: Dealing with the challenges posed by emerging technologies
Publisher: SIPRI
December, 2017

Article 36 of the 1977 Additional Protocol to the 1949 Geneva Conventions imposes a practical obligation on states to determine whether ‘in the study, development, acquisition or adoption of a new weapon, means or method of warfare’ its use would ‘in some or all circumstances be prohibited by international law’. This mechanism is often colloquially referred to as an ‘Article 36 review’. 

This SIPRI report presents the authors’ key takeaways from a conference convened by SIPRI to discuss the importance of, and challenges associated with, Article 36 reviews of the legality of weapons, means and methods of warfare that are based on three emerging fields of technology: cyberwarfare technologies, artificial intelligence and robotics, and human enhancement. It establishes that although these three technology areas are at various levels of maturity (from mature to still emerging and experimental), it is beyond dispute that they will have a dramatic impact on the future of warfare as they all have the potential to fundamentally change the way force is applied, and critical decisions are made, on the battlefield. The report also finds that despite their technical and operational differences, the military applications derived from these technology areas raise similar challenges as far as the conduct of Article 36 reviews is concerned.


Dr Vincent Boulanin is Director of the Governance of Artificial Intelligence Programme at SIPRI.
Maaike Verbruggen is a doctoral researcher at the Institute for European Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Her research focuses on the intersection between emerging technologies, military innovation and arms control. She is currently working on a PhD thesis on military innovation in artificial intelligence.