Against a backdrop of geopolitical tensions and rapid technological developments, the debate on governing autonomous weapons is gaining momentum – both in the Netherlands as well as in other countries. Discussions are complicated, however, because of wide variations in the positions of countries, compounded by a tendency of some politicians and non-governmental organizations to frame the discussion in alarmist terms. The regulation of controversial categories of robotic and autonomous systems (RAS) requires new approaches and new instruments.
Building on theories of transnational governance, this paper highlights so-called trusted communities as a potentially valuable instrument to engage relevant stakeholders, particularly those from the private sector. Apart from continuing its efforts in formal frameworks – such as the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), where Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) are discussed – the Netherlands government may consider reaching out to businesses and relevant experts at home as well as in like-minded states through trusted communities.
Such networks have the ability to bring together key actors to provide input for developing principles and norms for further regulation and export control regimes that are based on mutual trust and respect.