The independent resource on global security

13. Conventional arms control and new weapon technologies

Contents

Overview, Ian Davis

I. Global instruments for conventional arms control, Ian Davis

II. The group of governmental experts on lethal autonomous weapon systems, Moa Peldán Carlsson and Vincent Boulanin

III. Creeping towards an arms race in outer space, Daniel Porras

Global instruments for conventional arms control

Despite growing international concern over the use of incendiary weapons and explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA), including the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by non-state armed groups, discussions within the framework of the 1981 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW Convention) failed to generate new concrete outcomes. The lack of progress under the CCW Convention is leading some states to explore the creation of new arms control instruments. Ireland convened the first of a series of open consultations on a political declaration on EWIPA in Geneva in 2019, with a view to finalizing and adopting a declaration in 2020. 

 

International differences on the development of norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace led to two parallel processes starting in 2019: an Open-ended Working Group and a new Group of Govern-mental Experts. However, in the absence of consensus, a binding agreement within either seems unlikely in the near future.

 

While new uses of Anti-Personnel Mines (APMs) by states are now extremely rare, their use by non-state armed groups in conflicts is a growing problem, especially the use of victim-activated IEDs. APMs were used by such groups in at least six states between mid-2018 and October 2019: Afghanistan, India, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan and Yemen. The non-state armed group Polisario Front of Western Sahara completed the destruction of its stockpiled landmines in 2019. There was continued use of cluster munitions in Syria in 2019. 

 

Preventing an arms race in outer space

Since 2017, some states, most notably the United States, have openly declared space to be a domain of war or an area for both offensive and defensive military operations. Others, including France, India and Japan, announced new dedicated military space units in 2019, and in March 2019 India tested an anti-satellite weapon. In addition, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced in 2019 that outer space is now a domain of operation. Despite the growing risk of a conflict in outer space, inter-national discussions on both security and safety aspects of space activities, including the United Nations agenda item—the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS)—remained blocked. 

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