The Geneva Process on AI Principles

States and international organizations are increasingly adopting ethical principles on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for defence and military purposes. What do they mean? How can they be implemented? How do they interrelate with international law? The Geneva Process on AI Principles is an interdisciplinary process uniting leading experts and policymakers to explore and clarify these questions.


The Context

AI is increasingly developed and used for defence and military purposes, ranging from planning and logistics to targeting. These applications raise a series of ethical, operational, and legal questions. The appropriate degree of autonomy of machines, the risk of bias in systems, and the necessity for transparency are examples of unresolved issues regarding the military use of AI.

To tackle these challenges, states and international organizations have started to define ethical principles to guide the design, development, and use of AI for defence and military purposes. Key documents include the US Department of Defense Ethical Principles for Artificial Intelligence, the NATO AI Strategy, the EU Guidelines for Military and Non-Military Use of Artificial Intelligence, and the Guiding Principles adopted by the UN Group of Governmental Experts on LAWS.

Recurring principles throughout these documents include responsibility, equitability, traceability, reliability, governability, and lawfulness. Yet, these ethical principles on military AI remain few, vague, and heterogenous. Consequently, there is a need for a better comprehension of the meaning, implementation, and legal ramifications of the principles. The Geneva Process on AI Principles narrows this gap.


The Process

The Geneva Process on AI Principles aims to increase the understanding of the emerging principles on AI for defence and military purposes. This should support states, international organizations, firms, and researchers for better analysis, design, implementation, and international cooperation regarding the ethical and responsible development and use of military AI. Taking a broad approach regarding AI applications, legal branches, and other considerations, the process also aims to support ongoing international and national efforts on the regulation of AI.

To this end, the process explores and clarifies the emerging principles’ meaning, their operationalisation, and their legal implications. The process addresses four analytical and policy-related angles relevant to the development, use, and regulation of AI for defense and military purposes, namely legal, technical, ethical, and military perspectives. The process consists of research, expert consultations, and a series of workshops as well as the creation of an international network of experts on military AI.



GCSP partnered with Articles of War to publish a series of blog articles offering several analyses on the nexus between international law and the responsible development, deployment, and use of AI for defence and military purposes: 

In the context of the first Responsible AI in the Military Domain (REAIM) Summit in The Hague in 2023, the GCSP team wrote the analysis Globalizing Responsible AI in the Military Domain by the REAIM Summit in Just Security (by Tobias Vestner and Juliette François-Blouin).

During the second session of 2023 of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems at the UN Office in Geneva, the Research Society of International Law interviewed Nicolò Borgesano on the legal, technical and ethical challenges posed by the military use of AI systems.



Group photo_GCSP Workshop Legal implications of the ethical principles on military AI

Legal Workshop

The GCSP held a workshop on the Legal Implications of the Ethical Principles on Military AI on the 13th and 14th of June 2022. Nineteen experts from Europe, Oceania, and the Americas, including Chris Jenks, Daniel Trusilo, Nehal Bhuta, Netta Goussac, Theodore Christakis, Liisa Janssens, as well as representatives from NATO, the EU, the ICRC, and several states, sought to identify legal touchpoints between AI principles and public international law, international humanitarian law, and international human rights law.

Technical Workshop

The GCSP held a second workshop on the Technical Challenges of the Ethical Principles on Military AI on the 29th and 30th of November 2022. The workshop brought together technical experts from NATO, governments, industry, and academia, including Wolfgang Koch, Alka Patel, Ariel Conn, Christine Boshuijzen-van Burken, and Florian Keisinger. Through various use cases, the twenty-five experts delved into how the principles can be translated at the various stages of the design, development and use of AI systems by defence forces. 

Photo Workshop on the Technical Challenges of Military AI 30.11.22


Working Breakfast at NATO

Working Breakfast at NATO

The GCSP together with the Mission of Switzerland organised a working breakfast at NATO on 15 December 2022 to discuss insights into the current ethical, technical, and legal challenges to the implementation of AI principles, building on observations gained from the GCSP workshops. Contributions were made by Ambassador Thomas Greminger, GCSP Director, Ambassador Philippe Brandt, Head of the Mission of Switzerland to NATO, James Appathurai, Deputy Assistant Secretary-General for Emerging Security Challenges Division at NATO, Dirk Pulkowski, Deputy Legal Advisor of the NATO Office of Legal Affairs, and Bartjan Wetger, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to NATO.

REAIM Summit 2023

A GCSP delegation participated in the Responsible AI in the Military Domain (REAIM) Summit on 15 and 16 February 2023. Hosted by the Netherlands together with South Korea, it was the first conference to launch an international and multi-stakeholder debate on responsible AI. The GCSP organised a panel discussion on swarming and the future of warfare, with exchanges between Jean-Marc Rickli, Tobias Vestner, Sandra Scott-Hayward, Ricardo Chavarriaga, Zachary Kallenborn, Lydia Kostopoulos, and Anja Kaspersen.

REAIM Summit 2023
30th session of the HRC Advisory Committee

Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

Pursuant to Resolution 51/22, the Human Rights Council mandated the Advisory Committee to examine the human rights implications of new and emerging technologies in the military domain. Amongst other experts, Tobias Vestner was invited to offer his insights to the expert-body based on the GCSP’s current work. Tobias Vestner reflected upon the current national and international policies and strategies currently tackling responsible AI, specifically from the international law and human rights law standpoint.


The Project Team


tobias Vestner

Tobias Vestner, Director of Research and Policy Advice & Head of Security and Law

Tobias Vestner leads GCSP’s Research and Policy Advice Department as well as the Security and Law Programme. He oversees and manages GCSP’s analysis and advice activities as well as researches and teaches on the intersection between security policy and international law. Tobias Vestner regularly advises governments, international organizations, and private firms on global security and legal issues. He has published several books and articles as well as provided insights to various media outlets, including the U.S. National Public Radio, NBC News, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and RTS Geopolitis. Read the full bio here

Nicolo BorgesanoNicolò Borgesano, Assistant Programme Officer, Security and Law Programme

Nicolò Borgesano is an Assistant Programme Officer within the Security and Law Programme, where he currently conducts research on international humanitarian law, emerging technologies in the military, responsible AI, data and machine learning. He holds an LLM in international humanitarian law and human rights from the Geneva Academy, where he focused on the rules on the use of force in the conduct of hostilities and treatment of prisoners of war. Precedingly, Nicolò Borgesano pursued a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree in law at the Catholic University of Milan as well as undertook comparative law courses at the University of Technology Sydney and Insubria.


Adolfo Moreira, Junior Programme Officer, Security and Law Programme

Adolfo Moreira is a Junior Programme Officer within the Security and Law Programme, working on the law and regulation of military artificial intelligence. Before, he was a Research Assistant at the University of Sheffield on due diligence in cyberspace, lectured on the intertwining of cyber attacks and use of force, self-defence and non-State actors at Universidade Católica Portuguesa, and researched pro bono on appeals for people convicted of serious criminal offences in the United Kingdom. He holds a Master's degree (LL.M.) in International Law and Global Justice from the University of Sheffield and a Bachelor's degree (LL.B.) in Law from Universidade Católica Portuguesa.

Juliette François-Blouin Former Staff: Juliette François-Blouin, Programme Officer, Security and Law Programme

Juliette François-Blouin was a former Programme Officer within the Security and Law Programme. She focused on the legal implications of new technologies and the regulation of the use of artificial intelligence by armed forces. She also taught international security law. Prior to GCSP, she worked as political and economic analyst for the U.S. Consulate in Montreal and contributed to the International Clinic for the Defense of Human Rights at the University of Quebec. Juliette François-Blouin holds a master’s in international humanitarian law and human rights from the Geneva Academy and a bachelor’s in international relations and international law from the University of Quebec.


To learn more about the Research and Policy Advice click here.