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.

NEWS AND UPCOMING EVENTS

Portrait of Marco Roscini News

Professor Marco Roscini is our New IHL Chair

6 May 2022

Marco Roscini is a leading expert in international law of armed conflict, the use of force in international law, and international cyber security law and has published widely in the field of international security law.

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View of the Gulf of Mexio from the outer space News

Winning Essay Discusses Digital Safe Havens to Protecting Civilians from Military Cyber Operations

17 June 2021

In her winning essay Digital Safe Havens: Sheltering Civilians From Military Cyber Operations, Isabelle Peart brings forward novel suggestions on how to reduce the risk of harm to civilians posed by military cyber operations.

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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.

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RESEARCHERS

Picture of Marco Roscini

Marco Roscini

Swiss IHL Chair and Professor of International Law at the University of Westminster

Professor Roscini's research areas include the international law of armed conflict, the use of force in international law, international cyber security law, nuclear non-proliferation law, and the history of international law.

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 Research Fellow

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

Past Events

Launch Event: Joint Initiative on the Digitalization of Conflict

29 October 2020, 10:00-12:00

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MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

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Time to Apply to our Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict

2 May 2022

Applications for the upcoming academic year of our Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict are open. They will run until 30 June 2022 – meaning that interested candidates have two months to apply – with courses starting at the end of September 2022.

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Portrait of Professor Marco Sassoli News

Professor Marco Sassòli Will Participate in an OSCE Mission to Enquire into Violations of IHL and IHRL in Ukraine

15 March 2022

Professor Marco Sassòli has been appointed as one of three experts on a mission to investigate violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in Ukraine for the OSCE.

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Cover page of the book Event

Book Launch: ‘Unravelling Unlawful Confinement in Contemporary Armed Conflicts’

25 May 2022, 18:00-20:00

This event marks the launch of our LLM alumna Jelena Plamenac’s award-winning book ‘Unravelling Unlawful Confinement in Contemporary Armed Conflicts’ published by Brill.

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The Wagner Group: Options for Justice

9 June 2022, 18:00-19:30

This IHL Talk aims at clarifying the relevant frameworks of responsibility for the crimes committed by the Wagner troops.

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Yemen,  Sana'a, Faj Attan district. Destruction. Short Course

From Use of Force to Responsibility to Protect

19 May - 3 June 2022

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, provides an overview of the evolution of the rules governing the use of force in international law, focusing on military intervention on humanitarian grounds and the creation of the United Nations collective security system. It then addresses the concept of the responsibility to protect.

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Mine Project

Business, Human Rights and Conflict-Affected Regions

Started in July 2021

This project aims to further identify and clarify policies and practices for States and business, including public and private investors, across the full ‘conflict cycle’ and the ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ pillars of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

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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

The Future Digital Battlefield and Challenges for Humanitarian Protection: A Primer

published on April 2022

Henning Lahmann

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