FPWG Event report: Conceptualising Remote Warfare: The Past, Present, and Future

FPWG members Abigail Watson, Rubrick Biegon and Tom Watts organised this workshop at the University of Kent on 28 February and 1 March 2019.

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Speakers and audience at remote warfare workshop

The workshop was designed to facilitate interaction between scholarly and practitioner audiences, to open up the contemporary practices of remote warfare to a more holistic examination, and draw out some of its currently overlooked and/or undertheorized dimensions. Its primary purpose was to help advance a richer, more holistic understanding of this approach which can be used to better inform policymaking and academic debates. To this end, the workshop brought together academics and practitioners to discuss trends in light-footprint/remote practices of warfare, including drones, AI, cybersecurity, special forces, security assistance, and other related topics. Podcasts of presentations are available here.

The workshop was a great success. Participants presented twenty-eight papers over seven panels, with Professor Sir Hew Strachan providing a keynote lecture as part of a public-facing event that also comprised a roundtable discussion on the future of remote war and the impact of AI on war and conflict, featuring six leading scholars and practitioners. Attendees/presenters included individuals affiliated with the British military, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones, the RAND corporation, PRIO, Reprieve, CIVIC, Pax for Peace, and other organizations, as well as over a dozen universities. Over 80 individuals registered for the event, with numerous attendees traveling from Europe and/or North America, as well as from around the UK.

Discussions from the conference fed into a briefing paper by Tom Watts and Rubrick Biegon on remote warfare published by the Oxford Research Group in May 2019. Select papers from the conference are being developed into book chapters for an edited collection by E-IR, edited by Abigail Watson.