UN Disarmament Board: New proposals to improve drone strike transparency and accountability

A new report of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters (full text) contains a number of recommendations related to both autonomous weapons and current uses of armed drones. These recommendations include that the Secretary-General commission a new study to propose improvements in the transparency of and accountability for drone strikes.

Sections which may be of particular interest to Just Security readers – including the Board’s recommendations – are pasted below:

 “[The Advisory Board] emphasized the importance of continuing these discussions [about autonomous weapons systems] and the need to consider important first steps such as definitions before moving forward. The Board also discussed the implications of autonomous weapons systems for international humanitarian and human rights law.

With respect to unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, the Secretary-General should commission a study to examine the distinction between armed/military drones and unarmed/peaceful/civilian drones, and such ideas as improving transparency in targeted unmanned aerial vehicle strikes as a confidence-building measure and developing a robust oversight and accountability mechanisms for targeted strikes outside active battlefields. The proposed study should also consider international humanitarian law and how relevant principles such as distinction, proportionality and military necessity should be applied, with a view to avoiding excessive injurious or indiscriminate effects;

The Secretary-General should encourage Member States to take into account their responsibility and obligation to the wider international community when using emerging technologies, given the absence of international regulation in that field. In this connection, he should encourage States to develop and implement inter-State transparency and confidence- building measures with regard to emerging technologies.”


About the Author(s)

Sarah Knuckey

Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, Director of the Human Rights Clinic, Co-Director of the Human Rights Institute, Former Special Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions (2007-2016). Member of the editorial board of Just Security. Follow her on Twitter (@SarahKnuckey).