The CSS Blog Network

Drones in Our World, Part IV: Adapting a Warfighter


Current and Future Capabilities of UAVs in International Humanitarian Interventions

Aerial surveillance and remote sensing are nothing new in the world of combat reconnaissance, but they are new tools in the arsenal of the humanitarian relief and development communities. And they are rapidly evolving. Complex, disaster, and rapidly evolving environments all require the capability to promptly collect, analyze, and disseminate critical information that UAVs can gather and exploit in ways and quantities that other resources cannot rival.

Away, but not apart, from wars

In addition to the myriad uses of UAVs in combat environments—including non-kinetic roles—discussed in the previous installation of this series, UAVs can also serve as neutral observers for ceasefire monitoring or other peacekeeping missions.

Unlike data reported by humans, the information collected and conveyed by drones is inherently neutral. When information is delivered based upon objective rather than subjective collection practices, it is easier to make more accurate assessments of issues. The state of affairs depicted in the raw imagery and the resulting analytical products are based on factual observations and serve as a force multiplier and verifier of human-collected information or verbal reports. » More

The New Information Superhighway: Practical Methods for Sharing Knowledge and Stemming Destabilizing Arms Flows

Nearly all destabilizing arms transfers to conflict zones and areas targeted by UN or EU sanctions are clandestine in nature, making monitoring difficult and prevention harder still. However, instead of attempting to create new instruments to tackle these problems, more efficient use can and should be made of existing mechanisms to enforce EU and UN arms embargoes. A recent incident involving a Russian-owned flag of convenience ship that attempted to deliver helicopter gunships to Syria demonstrated the potential effectiveness of such mechanisms.

The MV Alaed was prevented from delivering arms to Syria because the British insurer of the ship withdrew coverage after its EU-embargoed destination was made public. In June 2012, the Alaed was forced to return to Russia, where its cargo of gunships and missiles was unloaded. » More

Human Rights of North Korean Defectors in Dire Straits

Dadong, North Korea. Image by Joseph A Ferris III/Flickr.

On August 3rd, South Korean human rights activist Kim Young-hwan and three colleagues held a press conference accusing Chinese authorities of detainment and torture due to their work with North Korean refugees. China has denied the allegations.

The activists were staying in Dalien, a major city in the southern Chinese province of Liaoning, assisting North Korean defectors and raising awareness of the dire human rights situation in North Korea (the original cause for their arrest). Mr. Kim said that he and his colleagues were beaten and tortured with electricity for “threatening the national security of China,” that both the Chinese and the North Korean governments were clandestinely engaged in their arrest and torture, and that the Chinese government intentionally delayed a consulate meeting.

Torture and harsh treatment for human rights activists such as Kim Young-hwan – who is a former supporter of North Korea’s first leader Kim Il-sung, but later became disillusioned with the regime’s absolutism and human rights abuses – highlight the tensions between South Korea and China as well as the ill treatment of North Korean defectors by the Chinese government. » More

Calming Colombia and Nicaragua’s Murky Waters

Disputed-maritime-border between Nicaragua and Colombia. Image by Tim Rogers/ Nicaragua Dispatch.

After being on the backburner for over three decades, The Hague is finally ruling on a spat between Colombia and Nicaragua over a set of islands that includes San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina in the Caribbean Sea. While Nicaragua will argue that the border between the states should be located between its coast and Colombia’s—and not be defined by the 82nd meridian—there is little chance that Nicaragua will succesfully claim sovereignty over the entire archipelago, and the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) decision by the end of 2012 will set an important precedent for maritime disputes across Latin America.

Aside from deciding where the new border will be, the real focus of the dispute will center on the inhabitants of the islands, who have chosen for over a century to be part of Colombia. A clear ruling would not only settle the difference between these two countries, but also help encourage long-overdue development and security. This will hopefully allow the islands to enjoy the wealth of the region’s untapped natural resources. It should also act as an important model for other such border disputes when two countries can’t reach a mutual agreement, something ICJ encourages before filing claims at the higher court. » More

Eye of the Storm for US-Pakistan Relations


Following one of the worst periods in the history of the relationship between the United States and Pakistan, several encouraging developments have taken place in recent months. Unfortunately, we are passing through the eye of a Pakistani storm that is almost sure to whip up again in 2013, if not sooner.

But first, the good news. In July, following a lengthy parliamentary debate in Islamabad and a frustrating series of diplomatic negotiations with Washington, the Pakistani government agreed to reopen NATO supply lines to Afghanistan that had been closed since late November 2011, when NATO forces mistakenly killed twenty-four Pakistani soldiers in a firefight along the Afghan border. The restoration of these routes opened the spigot to more than $1 billion in U.S. aid. That, in turn, revived senior-level diplomatic, military, and intelligence dialogues. » More

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