Online symposium: The War of Tomorrow

February 11, 2021

The rapidly growing use of drones and robots, and data-driven military analysis will likely have profound impacts on the future of warfare. To better understand the implications of these developments for our armed forces, military interventions, and foreign policy, PAX will host the online symposium The War of Tomorrow: How are novel military technologies changing modern conflicts? with a broad array of experts on Friday, February 26th at 15:00-17:30 CET.

In recent years, major developments in military technology have allowed for a rapid growth in the use of un-crewed systems for the detection and clearance of explosives, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, as well as the elimination of targets. At the same time, countries like the Netherlands are increasingly resorting to remote warfare. This type of warfare generally involves a combination of airstrikes, military training, the use of militias and special force units, the sharing of intelligence, and the forming of alliances with non-state armed groups.

While this shift from “boots on the ground” to countering threats from a distance may appear to bring military advantages, there is an important need to further explore resulting implications for the protection of civilians and assess its effectiveness for long-term peace and security. Will these developments lower the threshold for the use of force? How do they influence the operations of Dutch military forces and their participation in peacekeeping operations? What are the additional risks faced by Dutch soldiers when other countries or non-state armed groups acquire these technologies? And can we ensure the accuracy of high-speed data streams and risk assessments in the heat of the battle?

These and other questions will be addressed at our online symposium, where military experts, politicians, civil society representatives and academics will engage in a conversation moderated by journalist Bahram Sadegi on the opportunities, risks and costs of these military developments.

The event will also feature a short film by the artist Anastasija Kiake, entitled “Kind of Blue”, on the remoteness of modern warfare.


Lieutenant colonel Martijn Hädicke: Commander Robot Autonomous Systems Unit, Royal Netherland Army

Bianca Torossian: Research Fellow, The Hague Centre for Security Studies

Lauren Gould: Assistant Professor Conflict Studies and Director of the Intimacies of Remote Warfare Programme, University of Utrecht

Wim Zwijnenburg: Humanitarian Disarmament Project Leader, PAX, and Coordinator, European Forum on Armed Drones

Salima Belhaj: Member of Parliament, D66

Tom van den Nieuwenhuijzen: Member of Parliament, Groenlinks

Please register for the event here

Lieutenant Colonel Martijn Hädicke of the Royal Netherlands Army has been an Innovation Concept Development & Experimentation Officer since 2015 and Project Manager of the Innovation Program on Robot Autonomous Systems (RAS) since 2018. Within the RAS project, the Army investigates how robots and autonomous systems can support military personnel. For the development of suitable systems, the Army works together with universities of applied sciences, TNO and various companies.

Bianca Torossian has contributed to a range of projects commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch Ministry of Defence, and NATO. She primarily focuses on the intersection between emerging technologies and conflict, with multiple publications on hybrid and cyber conflict. A specific area of interest for Bianca is the field of artificial intelligence in defence contexts. At The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, she has contributed to research projects on Robotic and Autonomous Systems in a Military Context, Hybrid Conflict, Conflict in Cyberspace, Dutch Defence Strategic Challenges, and Water, Peace and Security in Iraq.

Lauren Gould is an Assistant Professor in Conflict Studies at Utrecht University and the director of the Intimacies of Remote Warfare programme. She has conducted research on the liquid warfare tactics of the US Africa Command across East Africa. Her current research project studies and critiques how actors who execute and monitor remote warfare co-constitute a dominant narrative in which remote warfare is portrayed as ‘precise’ and ‘caring’: a form of perfect war which saves lives, not just of ‘our own’ but also of ‘civilian others’. For her research she has conducted fieldwork in Uganda, South Sudan the UK, Belgium and The Netherlands.

Wim Zwijnenburg is a Humanitarian Disarmament Project Leader for peace organisation PAX and Coordinator of the European Forum on Armed Drones, a network of civil society organisations working to address concerns over use and proliferation of military drones. He is a frequent contributor to the open-source investigative journalism collective Bellingcat and has been involved in the Control Arms campaign on the Arms Trade Treaty. His work focuses on emerging military technologies and their impact on how wars are being fought and consequences for arms proliferation. He also works on the impact of conflict on the environment.

Salima Belhaj has been a member of the D66 parliamentary group since January 26, 2016. Until then, she was the party’s leader in Rotterdam. In the House of Representatives, she is involved in defence and art and culture. Belhaj was Head of Personnel Affairs at the Scapino Ballet in Rotterdam and, among other things, Business Manager of the theater ‘de Appel’. D66 calls for international agreements for the use of semi-autonomous weapon systems, such as drones. D66 also seeks to broaden the army’s scope with new dimensions, such as space and cyberspace.

Tom van den Nieuwenhuijzen has been a member of the GroenLinks parliamentary group in the House of Representatives since 7 May 2020. In the House of Representatives, he is involved in development cooperation, foreign trade and defence. Nieuwenhuijzen was also alderman for sustainability and the environment at Son en Breugel and Project Manager of the Amsterdam Climate Neutral program from 2019-2020. Groenlinks seeks to have an international debate about the legal, moral, and operational frameworks of new weapon systems. Groenlinks is also aiming to invest in new military technology and equipment, such as for cyber defence.

Bahram Sadeghi is a programme maker and a journalist. With a background in television, Sadeghi has mainly focused on organizing debates and writing. He works on a freelance basis for Pakhuis de Zwijger and De Balie, and he regularly writes for the Volkskrant, at which, in addition to writing pieces such as Hoe komt een gezochte terrorist van A naar B? and Ik reageerde wél op een spam-mailtje, he also sets up multimedia projects such as 1000 Dagen Plastic and Bahram ziet Abraham. In the past, he has organized the debate Ik wil wapens. Sadeghi has no hobbies.

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