Making the Case for Action

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is calling on all countries to participate in next week’s Fifth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). It invites states to join the group of 14 nations calling for a preemptive ban on weapons that would select and attack targets without further human intervention.

On Friday, 12 December, states attending the United Nations meeting in Geneva will decide on future work to address concerns over fully autonomous weapons systems, known as lethal autonomous weapons systems. The proposal is to formalize their deliberations by establishing a CCW Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) to meet next year.

In a December 8 letter, Representative Jim McGovern and eight other House Democrats expressed support for a preemptive ban on fully autonomous weapons. The letter to the US secretaries of defense and state proposes a new CCW protocol that “should require meaningful human control over target selection and engagement for each individual attack.”

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is a global coalition of non-governmental organizations working to preemptively ban development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. It supports the recommendation to create a Group of Governmental Experts and urges states to identify an ambitious outcome for such a “GGE” to work towards by aiming to negotiate a new CCW protocol retaining meaningful human control of weapons systems and individual attacks.

More than 80 of the CCW’s 121 states parties and a dozen observer states attended a preparatory meeting for the Review Conference held at the end of August. A similar number of countries is expected next week along with UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots with a delegation of more than two-dozen representatives from Canada, Colombia, Egypt, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, UK, and US.

Pakistan’s Ambassador Tehmina Janjua is serving as president of the Fifth Review Conference. Co-founders of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots including Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams of the Nobel Women’s Initiative will address the general debate of the Review Conference on 12 December. The rest of the week’s work will be divided into two committees. The Republic of Moldova’s Ambassador Tudor Ulianovschi is chairing Main Committee II on autonomous weapons together with vice chair Ambassador Alice Guitton of France.

Members of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots are releasing new publications ahead of next week’s Fifth Review Conference:

  • Letter from Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Mark Pocan (D-WI), John Conyers (D-MI), John Lewis (D-GA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Maxine Waters (D-CA).
  • Human Rights Watch report entitled Making the Case: The Dangers of Killer Robots and the Need for a Preemptive Ban, which rebuts 16 key legal, technical, policy, and security arguments against banning fully autonomous weapons. Authored by senior arms researcher Bonnie Docherty, it is co-published with Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. where she is also a lecturer.
  • SEHLAC, the regional humanitarian disarmament security network that joined the campaign’s Steering Committee in April, has published a Spanish-language briefing paper entitled Robots Asesinos. SEHLAC is represented at the CCW Review Conference by its author Camilo Serna of the Colombia Campaign to Ban Landmines.
  • Heather Roff from Arizona State University has published an 8-page memo for the CCW Review Conference entitled Meaningful Human Control of Appropriate Human Judgement: The Necessary Limits on Autonomous Weapons. The paper is part of a research project by Roff and Richard Moyes of Article 36 supported by the Future of Life Institute. Moyes and Roff will address a side event briefing on Tuesday, 13 December.

States will decide on the proposed 2017 mandate on lethal autonomous weapons systems when they adopt the final documents of the CCW Review Conference on Friday, 16 December, likely late afternoon.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is convening two side event briefings during the Review Conference:

  • Wednesday, 14 December with Docherty, Maya Brehm from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and Peter Herby from the Norwegian Red Cross. Facilitated by Thompson Chengeta from the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC); and
  • Thursday, 15 December with Williams, artificial intelligence expert Professor Toby Walsh, and Campaign to Stop Killer Robots coordinator Mary Wareham. Facilitated by ICRAC’s Frank Sauer.

Campaign representatives Williams and Wareham will address a briefing for members of the Committee of the Association of Correspondents Accredited to the United Nations (ACANU) in Geneva at 3:30pm (15:30) on 13 December.

For more information, see:

Artwork by Human Rights Watch