Smart Technology in SALW Control

Knowledge Notes 49

Release date: 2013-11

BICC brief 49 “Smart Technology in SALW Control–Civilian Protection, the UN-PoA, and Transfer Control (SmartCon)”, edited by Michael Ashkenazi, Elvan Isikozlu and Marc Kösling, contains the majority of papers presented at the SmartCon 2013 in Berlin, sponsored by the German Federal Foreign Office in June 2013. 

The first two papers present the underlying imperative for the use of smart weapon technologies. Atwood’s paper (p. 9) presents some of the findings about the abuse of SALW worldwide and the effects on human populations. Vranckx’s paper (p. 18) demonstrates the need for better transfer control and PSSM through the example of a case study of weapons seized in Colombia.

Two papers, by Ashkenazi (p. 26) and by Greene (p. 34), look at the technical and economic aspects of smart weapon technologies. Ashkenazi argues that technical developments in the future are likely to bring about an industry that is more consumer than producer driven, as the industry is now. Greene shows how smart weapon technology interfaces with political and other factors, and has the potential to effect changes in some of the areas of SALW control.

Kalbusch and Johnson-Thomas, while generally supportive of the idea of smart weapon technology in arms control, also note and document the difficulties of implementing the technology in Africa. Kalbusch’s paper (p. 41) emphasizes the need for more training and implementation of simple technologies and basic practices of PSSM, which are often very weak in African states. Johnson-Thomas (p. 49) shows how, in the absence of better tracing technologies, states are able to use purchased arms in ways that contravene UN agreements and protocols, and suggests that for some of these ills, smart weapon technologies could be a solution.

Winbäck’s and McCarthy’s papers both address the political and the diplomatic facets of the smart technologies issue. Winbäck, a parliamentarian, casts light on the need for parliamentary work to ensure that smart weapon technologies are accepted at the national legal level, and shows the kinds of impediments and limits to such introduction (p. 53). McCarthy (p. 58) discusses the difficulties of incorporating smart weapon technologies into international discourse dominated by agreements that have not considered the use of these new technologies.