Artificial intelligence in urban warfare: opportunities to enhance the protection of civilians?
Anna Rosalie Greipl Research Assistant at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and PhD candidate at the Graduate Institute, Geneva, Switzerland

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As the hostilities in Ukrainian cities remind us once again, urban warfare persistently causes immense suffering and devastating consequences for civilians’ lives and livelihoods. At the same time, the events reveal the challenges urban warfare represents for militaries. The urban environment is one of the most complex environments within which to conduct military operations. To address the challenges this environment poses to militaries, several technologically advanced States are investing in the development of artificial intelligence to enhance a range of their military activities. The ways States have thus far prioritized the development of artificial intelligence systems, however, evidence that investments to improve militaries’ ability to mitigate civilian harm during urban warfare remain rather neglected. Hence, this article aims to demonstrate that despite the risks related to artificial intelligence applications, this technology has great potential for enhancing militaries’ ability to mitigate civilian harm further. But this requires governments to invest more in its development and use to that end. Recognizing artificial intelligence systems’ potential to reduce the military challenge of protecting civilians from harm during urban warfare is a pressing need, considering that conflicts increasingly occur in urban environments where the risks for civilians’ lives and their livelihoods grow exponentially.

Contributor Notes

The author is grateful to the Journal’s reviewers for their helpful advice and comments. Any errors or omissions are all mine. [anna.greipl@graduateinstitute.ch]

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