Vindication for Anthropocentrism

The Humanitarian Case for a Pre-emptive Treaty Ban on Autonomous Weapons

  • Dylan Edmonds University of Ottawa
Keywords: Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWs); civil society


This paper will build on a growing chorus of stakeholder voices in civil society, academia and disarmament forums advocating for a pre-emptive treaty ban on lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs). Fundamentally, this piece’s raison d’être is to address a lacuna in the literature, that being the very little attention dedicated to conceptualizing the most feasible strategy which could lead to a pre-emptive ban. Drawing on International Humanitarian Law’s established norms of military necessity, Marten’s Law and the emerging norm of meaningful human control, this paper makes a compelling humanitarian case for a treaty ban. Framing theory, a theoretical lens borrowed from Goffman’s micromobilization theory, is then invoked to make the ultimate argument that civil society’s framing of autonomous weapons as a humanitarian threat is the surest strategy towards a pre-emptive treaty ban.