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Report: Drones Wars Conference

The Drone Wars conference was held on 18th September in London, UK and was organised by Fellowship of Reconciliation (England). The conference brought together academics, peace campaigners, NGOs and concerned citizens to discuss the growing military use of UAVs (Unmanned Arial Vehicles), commonly known as drones.
The conference aimed to share information on a variety of aspects of the use of drones, to
encourage networking amongst participants from a range of backgrounds and interests and to begin to generate ideas for an effective campaign to limit or end the use of armed drones. It was also the occasion for the launch of FoR‘s briefing 'Convenient Killing – Armed Drones and the Playstation Mentality‘.

During the conference there were many workshops, each workshop had to answer the following 5 questions. Here a summary of the answers that came out from the sessions:

1. How can we challenge the culture of secrecy surrounding the UK’s use of armed
drones?

* Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation – NCVO have a guide – use it
* Use FOI to find out what is being funded by arms trade

2. How else can we public awareness of the issues?

* Contact members of parliamentary Select Committees
* Push for a government statement – no autonomous armed drones
* Petition – needs to be well thought out, demand an apology?
* Must be newsworthy for press to cover
* Refer to 'robot warfare‘ not 'drones‘, other suggestions – 'killer drones‘ 'surveillance drones‘
* Public opinion poll (costs but could be worthwhile)
* Consequences of escalation, emotional charge – e.g. would encourage reprisals from suicide bombers
* Local angle – local arms companies etc.
* Make a documentary – find a filmmaker
* Bees as a metaphor for design e.g. logos

3. How can we impact the UK government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review

* Technology review from November
* Problem to address: drones are relatively cheap
* Need big public outcry to have impact
* Make inquiries – will drones be looked at in the review?
* We need to take the initiative, not wait for government to

4. How can we internationalise the issue?

* US groups e.g. Kathy Kelly, ACLU – invite speakers over
* Make it a Welsh issue crf. Trident Ploughshares and Scotland
* FoR via its international network IFOR
* Making the NATO connection – November, Lisbon conference

5. What opportunities are coming up in the next 12 months?

* FoR work with local groups – initiate a global week of action
* International Committee for Robot Arms Control
* Keep an eye on industry developments and be prepared to respond
* Publicity stunts e.g. Olympics (noting it could be dangerous)
* ―Why no prohibitions on autonomous robots making life and death decisions? – tie campaign in with the launch of new armed drones
* 9-16 November Week Against the Wall‘ focus on Israel‘s largest arms company Elbit Systems
* 29 November – global day of BDS of Israel http://www.waronwant.org
* East London Against Arms Fairs http://www.elaaf.org September 2011 – Custom House,
* Israeli arms companies – drones displayed/flown at fair 2009. Exel centre October 16 .