Exploring Directed Energy Weapons and the Implications of Their Use Under International Law

Hybrid Event: Geneva, Switzerland and Online
15 November 2023
Exploring Directed Energy Weapons and the Implications of Their Use Under International Law

Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs) are weapons which function by concentrated electromagnetic energy, and include lasers, high-powered microwaves, and particle beam weapons. Research and development of DEWs has experienced a recent worldwide surge, stemming in part from advances in technology and a desire to maintain competitiveness on the battlefield. As a result, there have been investments in the technology by multiple Member States.

Since the entry into force of the CCW, High Contracting Parties have continuously discussed emerging technologies, and in some instances, adopted protocols on specific conventional weapons issues they have identified as particularly in need of regulation. One type of DEW, namely blinding laser weapons, has been banned as a means or method of warfare since the 1995 Protocol IV to the CCW on Blinding Laser Weapons. However, to date, there has not been any further structured debate among the HCPs on DEWs more broadly.

This side event introduced participants to DEWs, the technology behind them, and the legal implications of their use, explored in the context of the CCW and international law more generally. It was hosted by UNODA and UNIDIR on the margins of the 2023 Annual Meeting of the High Contracting Parties of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

A recording of the event is available on the UNIDIR YouTube channel and below:


  • Dr Jürgen Altmann, physicist and peace researcher (retired) and lecturer in the Department of Physics at TU Dortmund University, Germany
  • Dr Lauren Sanders, senior research fellow with the Law and Future of War project at the TC Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland, Australia
  • Dr Stuart Casey-Maslen, associate fellow with the Global Fellowship Initiative of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and honorary professor at the University of Pretoria, South Africa


Wednesday 15 November 2023, 13:15 – 14:45 CET. Hybrid format – Auditorium of the H Building of the Palais des Nations (Geneva, Switzerland) and online.


We invited representatives from Member State delegations, as well as members of the multi-stakeholder community including industry, civil society, and intergovernmental organizations.

For any questions or further queries please contact the UNIDIR Security and Technology Programme (sectec-unidir@un.org).

This event was organized with the financial support of the European Union, under the project in support of the CCW.