Digitalization of Conflict Joint Initiative: Humanitarian Impact and Legal Protection

Started in September 2020

Context

This project aims to explore humanitarian consequences and protection needs caused by the digitalization of armed conflicts and the extent to which these needs are addressed by international law, especially international humanitarian law (IHL).

The digitalization of armed conflict is a dynamic process that encompasses the increasing use of digital means and methods of warfare based on a range of rapidly evolving technological developments, most notably in the area of cyber and other digital technologies, artificial intelligence, machine learning, sensor systems and robotics. The project considers the effects of these developments individually and in combination with a view to assessing the risks that they entail for conflict-affected populations and ensuring that the legal and policy framework provides adequate humanitarian protection in contemporary and future warfare.

New technologies have a profound impact on how wars are fought. IHL is applicable to all technological developments in warfare. The speed, scale, and transformative impact of today’s extraordinary technological advances and the continuous merger of the physical and digital domains, however, require a constant (re-)assessment whether new means and methods of warfare are compatible with existing IHL rules and whether IHL continues to provide the level of humanitarian protection it is meant to ensure in times of armed conflict.

Objectives

This joint initiative adopts a multi-disciplinary perspective that takes into consideration the interrelated technical, military, ethical, policy, legal and humanitarian aspects to address three overarching questions:

  1. What risks, potential humanitarian consequences, and protection needs for conflict-affected populations arise on the digital battlefield?
  2. Does international law, in particular IHL, adequately address these risks and protection needs?
  3. If not, what recommendations could be developed in terms of law and policy beyond the existing IHL framework to mitigate these risks and address these protection needs?

Partnerships

The ‘Digitalization of Conflict Initiative’ is a joint endeavour between the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Swiss IHL Chair at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. The initiative will move forward in cooperation and close consultation with a broad range of relevant stakeholders from governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, academia, and the private sector.

RESEARCHERS

Portrait of Robin Geiss

Robin Geiß

Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law at the Geneva Academy and Professor of International Law and Security at the University Of Glasgow

Robin Geiß has taught, researched and published on a variety of topics related to international humanitarian law, human rights law and the legal and ethical implications of new technologies, and is recognized as a leading expert in these fields.

Chiara Redaelli

Research Fellow

Chiara Redaelli's areas of expertise include international humanitarian law, jus ad bellum, and international human rights law.

Portrait of Henning Lahmann

Henning Lahmann

Associate Researcher

Henning Lahmann participates in the research at the Geneva Academy on disruptive military technologies.

Launch Event: Joint Initiative on the Digitalization of Conflict

29 October 2020, 10:00-12:00

Read more >

NEWS AND EVENTS

Toy soldiers siulating a fight in a context of electronic computer circuits News

Student Essay Competition: Avoiding Civilian Harm during Military Cyber Operations

6 April 2021

The Geneva Academy and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are organizing – in the context of our Digitalization of Conflict joint initiative – a student essay competition open to all undergraduate students from universities (including military academies) anywhere in the world.

Read more >

Businessman using his lapto News

Experts Discuss the Humanitarian and Societal Impact of Military Cyber Operations

1 March 2021

At an online workshop – one of the first steps of a research project on the humanitarian consequences and protection needs caused by the digitalization of armed conflicts – cyber experts discussed the humanitarian and societal impact of military cyber operations.

Read more >

A military types on a computer News

New Research Initiative Addresses the Digitalization of Armed Conflict

13 October 2020

A new research project, carried out in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross, will explore the humanitarian consequences and protection needs caused by the digitalization of armed conflicts and the extent to which these are addressed international humanitarian law.

Read more >

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

A view of the UN Security Council News

New Briefing Examines the Promotion of IHL at the UN Security Council

12 November 2020

Our new Briefing assesses the UN Security Council’s recent engagement with international humanitarian law and accountability.

Read more

Fighters in Libya News

10 Years of Expertise on Armed Non-State Actors

25 February 2021

We have been conducting research for more than 10 years on armed non-State actors, and continue to do so via two leading projects.

Read more

View of Villa Moynier Event

Open House: Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict

16 June 2021, 12:30-13:30

Join us for our open house to learn more about this part-time programme designed professionals, meet staff, students and alumni, and discuss career opportunities.

Read more

Afghanistan, Parwan detention facility. Inside a room where detainees of the prison, separated by an acrylic glass, are allowed to meet with their families a couple of times per year with the help of the ICRC employees who facilitate the programme. Short Course

Preventing and Combating Terrorism

Spring 2022

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, discusses the extent to which states may limit and/or derogate from their international human rights obligations in order to prevent and counter-terrorism and thus protect persons under their jurisdiction.

Read more

Syria,  Aleppo, great Umayyad mosque. Destructions. Short Course

The Interplay between International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Winter 2022

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, focuses on the specific issues that arise in times of armed conflict regarding the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights. It addresses key issues like the applicability of human rights in times of armed conflict; the possibilities of restricting human rights under systems of limitations and derogations; and the extraterritorial application of human rights law.

Read more

Séléka rebels patrol in the town of Bria, Central African Republic (CAR). Project

Human Rights Responsibilities and Armed Non-State Actors

Started in June 2018

This research aims at building a common understanding and vision as to how states and the relevant parts of the UN system can provide a concrete and practical framework to address human rights responsibilities of armed non-state actors.

Read more

Computer screen with warning: civilian infrastucture: do not attack Project

Digitalization of Conflict Joint Initiative: Humanitarian Impact and Legal Protection

Started in September 2020

This project will explore humanitarian consequences and protection needs caused by the digitalization of armed conflicts and the extent to which these needs are addressed by international law, especially international humanitarian law.

Read more

cover of the publication Publication

Military Briefing: Persons with Disabilities and Armed Conflict

published on March 2021

Alice Priddy

Read more