Concern & support at First Committee
More states have raised autonomous weapons concerns at the UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security this year than in the past two years, according to a Campaign to Stop Killer Robots review of statements from the 2015 session, which concludes on 9 November.
More than 30 states and five groups of states have included autonomous weapons in their statements during First Committee, in addition to the International Committee of the Red Cross and Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Botswana, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Romania elaborated their views on autonomous weapons for the first time, making a total of 62 states that have spoken on this topic since 2013. At the previous First Committee session in 2014, 23 states raised killer robots concerns while 16 did so in 2013. Relevant extracts from the 2015 statements follow below.
Almost all states that spoke on the matter have expressed support for more discussions on autonomous weapons in 2016 at the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). At the CCW on 13 November, states will decide whether to keep going with the talks on lethal autonomous weapons systems ahead of the CCW’s Fifth Review Conference in December 2016.
The strong support for addressing autonomous weapons concerns follows outreach by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, including a UN side event briefing and media briefing on 20 October. In a statement, press release, and briefing for delegates, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots urged states at First Committee to articulate their views on autonomous weapons concerns and indicate support for more work through an open-ended Group of Governmental Experts that can step-up the pace though expanded discussions.
On 20 October, the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the UN and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots held a briefing for First Committee delegates featuring artificial intelligence expert Professor Toby Walsh of the University of New South Wales, who helped draft and was one of the first signatories on the July 2015 artificial intelligence open letter calling for a ban on autonomous weapons. Dr. Ian Kerr, the Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law also spoke in his capacity as member of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC), a co-founder of the campaign.
During 2015 First Committee, a delegation of campaign representatives met with government representatives as well as the UN Secretary General’s Acting High Representative for Disarmament, Mr. KIM Won-soo.
UNIDIR held a side event briefing on autonomous weapons and cyber warfare on 9 October.
Several media outlets reported on autonomous weapons concerns at 2015 First Committee including The Guardian, Motherboard, Newsweek and VICE News. There was strong media interest from Australia following the participation of Toby Walsh in the UN events with coverage in 7News TV, ABC Radio, Financial Review, and the Sydney Morning Herald. Walsh has published several op eds following his TEDx talk in Berlin, including on CNN and TED Ideas.
Extracts of Statements
As of 31 October, at least 32 states have raised autonomous weapons concerns in their statements at the First Committee (Algeria, Austria, Botswana, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, and US) in addition to the Africa Group, Arab Group, European Union, Non-Aligned Movement, and Nordic countries. Most request further deliberations at the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and several proposed that a Group of Governmental Experts be established. States including Austria, France, Ireland, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Pakistan, and Switzerland have spoken more than once on autonomous weapons at the 2015 session of First Committee.
Algeria, 30 October
Algeria works to carry out the provisions of treaties its is party to such as the Convention on Conventional Weapons. Applications in artificial intelligence provide a promising prospect however self guided [autonomous] weapons raise legal, moral and humanitarian challenges. For this reason important to establish clear legal framework on this issue warning against terrorist groups using these weapons.
Austria, 13 October
Another matter of concern for my country is the prospect of development of lethal autonomous weapons systems. While this may seem a distant threat, technological innovation is moving fast. We risk crossing a very dangerous threshold. We should be very careful to make sure that the use of such weapon systems is consistent with ethical, political and legal imperatives. Therefore Austria advocates a deepening and intensifying of the ongoing international debate and the setting up of a GGE (Group of Governmental Experts).
Austria, 26 October
Before I conclude, let me put on record here one more concern of my country. This is the prospect of development of lethal autonomous weapons systems. While this may seem a more distant threat in comparison with those just mentioned, technological innovation is moving fast. We risk crossing a very dangerous threshold with these technological developments. We should be very careful to make sure that the application of such technology is consistent with ethical, political and legal imperatives. That is why we are with those who are in favor of not only continuing, but deepening and intensifying the ongoing international debate about lethal autonomous weapons systems.
Botswana, 27 October
My delegation acknowledges the necessity for nations to possess conventional arms for legitimate protection of their territories, interests and maintenance of global peace and stability. We are, however, concerned that such weapons are deadly as they cause pain and suffering with far-reaching consequences. Recent developments such as use of armed unmanned air vehicles and autonomous weaponry further compound this problem. It is doubtful if the use of these weapons meets standards of public international law, International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and international human rights law. We, however, welcome the discussions concerning these emerging challenges
China, 9 October
It is important to properly address the challenges brought about as a result of new technology developments to the international arms control process. Progress in science and technology have indeed benefited mankind, but its military application has, in the meantime, posed immerse potential risks and threats to the security and even the survival of mankind. The international community should adhere to the principle of security for all, abandon the practice of pursuing absolute military advantage, carry out preventive diplomacy, check the emerging arms race in the hi-tech field, and safeguard international peace and stability.
China, 26 October
China is concerned with lethal autonomous weapons. International law should apply. – Notes by Reaching Critical Will
Costa Rica, 27 October
Major ethical, legal and technical concerns have been expressed since 2013 regarding autonomous lethal weapons. Two years later, while many questions have been answered on this topic, many have been left unaddressed. Costa Rica agrees with other delegations in the need to define what is meant by “significant human control.” We also support the establishment of a group of government experts, GGE, to provide recommendations of the steps to follow, and what can be taken into account for next year’s Review Conference
Croatia, 26 October
We remain fully committed to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its five Protocols. CCW is a valuable multilateral instrument that offers a credible platform to discuss both on-going issues as well as emerging ones. Croatia would like to see continuation of discussions on the issue of LAWS within the framework of the CCW in 2016 with a strengthened mandate. This topic is not so new anymore, it has been discussed thoroughly in the two informal meeting of experts in the CCW over the past two years, but in our view that is not enough. These meetings only proved that there is need for us to have more talks. We need more answers, more conclusions and, ultimately, some decisions need to be made regarding lethal autonomous weapons systems. Also, it is our belief that this process should include all the relevant minds and voices and they should collaborate closely. It is of outmost importance to have at the table, together with diplomats, scientists, academia, military, civil society, industry and all the other experts that can contribute.
Cuba, 26 October
Cuba attaches high priority to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons for its important contribution to the development of International Humanitarian Law standards and proper attention given to the security interests of its States Parties. … We favor the adoption of a legally binding instrument under United Nations or the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to prohibit autonomous weapons before they are used. We have serious doubts that the use of lethal autonomous systems weapons can ensure compliance and enforcement of the rules and principles of International Humanitarian Law. – Google translation
Czech Republic, 26 October
The Czech Republic reiterates its strong support for the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). Universality of the CCW and its Protocols remains one of the highest priorities. … The Czech Republic welcomes new drive in the discussion on autonomous weapons systems. We believe that the international community must establish a shared set of international norms on how autonomous weapons systems must perform in order to comply with international humanitarian law and other relevant legal regimes as the technology continues to develop.
Ecuador, 26 October
My country believes that the international community should deepen the debate about armed UAVs and fully autonomous armed robots . The high casualty rate from the indiscriminate use of drones in civilian areas and use for extrajudicial executions. Legal questions are created by the development of new technologies that exclude human responsibility for decision making. This makes it urgent that serious discussion of these new problems in the field of conventional weapons be addressed. In this sense, my delegation supports the need to deepen the debate in preparation for the next review conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in 2016, during which states should consider banning lethal autonomous weapons. Meanwhile, states should refrain from developing these weapons.
Original – Mi pais considera que la comunidad internacional debe profundizar el debate alrededor de los Vehiculos aereos armados no tripulados y de los robots armados totalmente autonomos. El alto nlimero de victimas indiscriminadas que el uso de drones en zonas civiles ha causado y su utilizacibn para ejecuciones extrajudiciales, asi como las serias interrogantes Bticas y juridicas provocadas por el desarrollo de nuevas tecnologias belicas que excluyen la participaci6n y responsabilidad de los seres humanos en la toma de decisiones, hace urgente una discusibn seria sobre estos nuevos problemas en el campo de las armas convencionales. En este sentido, mi delegacibn apoya la necesidad de profundizar este debate en preparacion de la proxima Conferencia de Examen de la Convencion sobre ciertas armas convencionales en 2016, durante la cual se deberia considerar prohibir las armas letales autbnomas. Mientras tanto, los Estados deberian abstenerse de desarrollar estas armas.
France, 13 October
Finally, we have the responsibility of anticipating the future. This is indeed the purpose of the initiative led by France on lethal autonomous weapons systems. The interest generated by this debate, among both our governments and civil society, and the expertise that has already been mobilized to identify all the implications, demonstrate that this subject was worth addressing. We need to have an attentive and rigorous understanding of this phenomenon in order to foster the broadest possible convergence of views. The high-quality work conducted in 2015 in the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) showed that this forum was an entirely relevant place to address all the complex dimensions of the subject. It is in this context, and bearing in mind the CCW review conference in 2016, that France will continue to contribute to the work on LAWS.
France, 26 October
In 2015, within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), we continued the discussions on Lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) that France initiated in 2014. This is a forward-looking topic that concerns us all. It requires in-depth consideration by the international community, supported by experts and civil society. Lethal autonomous weapons systems raise very practical technical, ethical, legal and operational issues. The debates that took place in 2014 and 2015 showed that the CCW was capable of addressing issues of the future. The discussions need to continue at the CCW in 2016, bearing in mind the Review Conference that will take place in November.
Germany, 9 October
Let me address an emerging issue of great importance: Lethal autonomous weapons systems. Given the speed of technological progress, it is high time to take this issue seriously. There is a common understanding that machines should not be allowed to take life-and-death decisions without human intervention. Germany stands ready to shoulder further responsibilities in order to advance the discussions within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.
India, 26 October
India is party to the CCW and its five Protocols and remains committed to the CCW objective of progressively strengthening the role and principles of international humanitarian law while striking a balance between addressing humanitarian concerns and military necessity of States. India will contribute to the success of the CCW meetings this year and the Review Conference next year. … India supports continued discussions in the CCW on lethal autonomous weapons Systems (LAWS) as per an agreed mandate. We feel that LAWS should assessed not just from the view point of their compatibility with international law including international humanitarian law but also on their impact on international security if there is dissemination of such weapon systems.
India, 30 October
India raised the development of lethal autonomous weapons and impact of cyber warfare on international security.
Ireland, 14 October
As technology evolves, so too do the challenges of ensuring that the use of weapons and new technologies, both within and outside conflict situations, remains within the boundaries of international law. Ireland has been pleased to take part in the discussion of Lethal Autonomous Weapons systems at the CCW. We support a strengthened mandate for the CCW to work on and explore this serious emerging challenge for conventional arms control, with a view to developing positions for the CCW Review Conference in 2016.
Ireland, 26 October
The mandate of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its Protocols is at the heart of our debate on how to control and regulate the use of conventional weapons. Again, we would urge all State’s to accede to the Convention and to its protocols. We are encouraged by the active consideration which has been given to the question of Lethal Autonomous Weapons systems at the CCW. We support a strengthened mandate for the CCW to explore this serious emerging challenge for conventional arms control, as recognised by the many side events and briefings on this issue convened during our session. 2 Ireland supports the establishment of an open ended working group on this issue which could prepare for the CCW Review Conference in 2016.
Israel, 26 October
Israel considers the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) an important instrument and the right forum for discussing many challenges on the conventional sphere, as it strives to strike the necessary balance between military necessity and humanitarian considerations in the application of international humanitarian law (IHL). Israel welcomes the work undertaken this year in the CCW on the issue of future Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) by the informal meeting of experts held in April, as well as the continued work on IEDs and looks forward to further work on these two issues. The issue of LAWS needs to be further explored, from both technical and legal aspects, inter alia, defining what is an “Autonomous Weapon System” and what is meant by the term “Meaningful Human Control”. In the run up to next year’s Review Conference it is important to engage in meaningful and substantive discussions and Israel is committed to doing so.
Italy, 26 October
The CCW provides a unique forum to address issues relating to conventional weapons use and IHL. We welcome the CCW discussions on Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), whose growing political and humanitarian impact, particularly on civilian populations, is cause for great concern. We also highly appreciated the Meeting of Experts’ debates on emerging technologies in the area of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), which started to shed light on the multiple technical, legal, ethical, and military aspects that these involve.
Japan, 26 October
Japan recognizes the growing interest in the international community regarding the issue of lethal autonomous weapons systems. We commend the leadership of Ambassador Biontino of Germany in the second informal meeting of experts, which deepened our understanding on this issue through an interactive exchange of views. Japan supports further discussion in the Fifth CCW Review Conference in 2016 for further deepening out understanding of the main elements including the definition of lethal autonomous weapons systems.
South Korea, 26 October
The Republic of Korea is committed to universalisation of the Convention on Conventional Weapons as well as the Arms Trade Treaty. It supports international efforts to understand lethal autonomous weapons and supports using the CCW to address lethal autonomous weapons. – Notes by Reaching Critical Will
Kuwait, 26 October
Lethal autonomous robots have grave human security implications. Artificial intelligence technology relative to these weapons must be monitored and reviewed. – Notes by Reaching Critical Will
Kuwait, 30 October
The application of artificial intelligence (AI) can bring about positive changes, but can lead to production of lethal autonomous weapons posing challenges to humanity. The international community should not leave this field without any control to prevent the production of this indiscriminate and lethal weapon.
Lebanon, 12 October
The world is facing today challenges to commitments made 70 years ago, from armed drones, to autonomous weapons to cyberspace and outer space activities, we should not forget the values upon which these commitments were made. Human rights and International Humanitarian Law should remain our guiding principles and universality and inclusiveness the framework to regulate any action.
Mexico, 26 October
Mexico is a strong promoter of the principles of lnternational Humanitarian Law (IHL) and its intrinsic characteristics of weapons that cause indiscriminate , unnecessary and inhumane suffering shall be prohibited and eliminated. While it is recognizing that there are no fully autonomous armaments yet, technology is moving in that direction and the issue has been central to discussions on the modernization of weapons, ethics in the protection of civilians and respect for the lnternational Humanitarian Law (IHL). For Mexico, in principle, autonomous weapons are not capable of ensuring the application of the principles of distinction , proportionality and precaution, so would be prohibited by lnternational Humanitarian Law. Therefore, it is necessary to regulate the development and use of these weapons, before there is the possibility they will be used indiscriminately.
Original – Mexico es un firme promotor de que las armas contrarias a los principios de Derecho lnternacional Humanitario (DIH) y que pot sus caracteristicas intrinsecas causan daiios indiscriminados, superfluos e inhumanos, deben ser prohibidas y eliminadas. Si bien se reconoce que aljn no existe armamento belico completamente autonomo, la tecnologia se esta moviendo en esa direccion y el tema ha sido central en las discusiones sobre la modernizacion de las armas, la etica en la proteccion de los civiles y el respeto del Derecho lnternacional Humanitario (DIH). Para Mexico, en principio, las armas autonomas, no tienen la capacidad de garantizar la aplicacion de los principios de distincion, proporcionalidad y precaucion, por lo que estarian prohibidas por el Derecho lnternacional Humanitario y, por tanto, es necesario regular el desarrollo y el empleo de este tip0 de artefactos, antes de que exista la posibilidad de que Sean utilizados de manera indiscriminada.
Netherlands, 9 October
Two years of discussions on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems in the CCW have answered some questions on this important subject, but others remain. Also some new questions have been raised. For example we have to further deepen our understanding of what we exactly mean by ‘meaningful human control’ when we talk about these weapon systems. However, we believe it is time to take our discussions one step further. At the upcoming MSP we would be in favor to establish a GGE that could come up with recommendations for further steps, which could be taken into account at next year’s review conference.
Netherlands, 26 October
Two years of discussions on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems have answered some questions, but others remain and new ones were raised. We find it very positive that this is a concerted effort by both states and civil society. One thing is clear: International law and in particular International Humanitarian Law is the framework we should look at with regard to the legality of weapon systems. While developing new weapon systems, both LAWS as well as weapon systems with more advanced autonomous functions in general, states should remain within the boundaries of international law. In this regard, it is important to keep monitoring the technical developments in this field. To make progress, we believe our discussions could focus on deepening our understanding of what we exactly mean by ‘meaningful human control’. The Netherlands has started a multiyear research program to develop our own national perspective on this issue. We should also continue to explore if we can agree on a definition of Autonomous Weapon Systems. Finally, we could continue to discuss Article 36 reviews with a view to find common ground on elements of Autonomous Weapon Systems. We believe now is time to take our discussions one step further. At the upcoming MSP we would be in favor to establish a GGE that could come up with recommendations for further steps, which could be taken into account at next year’s review conference.
New Zealand, 26 October
We share, too, the concerns of many regarding the complex legal and political challenges posed by the possibility of lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS). Given the pace of technological advances, the international community must ensure that decision-making and accountability in the development and use of lethal weapon systems remains within the boundaries of international law including, in particular, IHL. With a view to the convening next year of the Review Conference on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), we support a strengthened mandate for further work within the CCW on this issue.
Pakistan, 26 October
The development of new types of weapons, such as lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) remains a source of concern for the international community. These weapon systems are by nature unethical because there is no longer a human in the loop and the power to make life and death decisions are delegated to machines which inherently lack compassion and intuition. The introduction of LAWS would therefore be illegal, unethical, inhumane and unaccountable as well as destabilizing for international peace and security and would have grave consequences. Therefore, their further development and use must be pre-emptively banned and the states currently developing such weapons should place an immediate moratorium on their production and use.
Pakistan, 30 October
In many ways, technology is re-shaping societies and states. Its scale, pace and impact is unprecedented in human history. Even as technological innovations offer immense opportunities for peace and development, they are also accompanied by several challenges including in the area of arms control, disarmament as well as peace and security at national, regional, sub-regional and international levels. … The development of new types of weapons, such as Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) remains an area of concern for the international community. These weapons are rightly being described as the next revolution in military affairs, similar to the introduction of gun-powder and nuclear weapons. LAWS by their very nature are unethical – taking the human out of the loop and delegating power to machines, which inherently lack any compassion, feelings and intuition, to make life and death decisions. LAWS would not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants; they lack morality, mortality and judgement. The use of LAWS will make war even more inhumane. The introduction of LAWS would affect progress on disarmament and nonproliferation. Faced with the prospect of being overwhelmed by LAWS, states possessing WMD capabilities would be reluctant to give them up, while others would feel encouraged to acquire them. LAWS would, therefore, further undermine international peace and security. Pakistan shares the widely held view that further development and use of these weapon systems must be pre-emptively banned, and the states currently developing such weapons should place an immediate moratorium on their production and use.
The emergence of Artificial Intelligence also poses distinct challenges as their development is outpacing regulations that need to govern their production and use. Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications, if left unregulated, could pose potentially significant risks for international peace and security. If history is any guide, the development of AI as a weapon would inevitably lead to an arms race in this field as well as increased proliferation risks. AI based weapons may not require costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials including their availability on the internet. It is therefore both essential and urgent to evolve agreed rules and regulations to govern the development, production and use of this new and emerging technology. The United Nations remains an indispensable platform for this purpose.
Poland, 12 October
Poland has served as the President of the last year’s meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The Convention provides a unique forum to gather diplomatic, legal and military expertise, and to address emerging issues, such as lethal autonomous weapons systems. A forward looking and focused discussion on this issue held in April this year has proved the relevance of the CCW and its ability to tackle this subjects. We welcome the comprehensive report of the Chair of the meeting of experts. We hope that the work on this issue will continue next year. As an outgoing Chair of the Meeting of the High Contracting Parties, Poland tables the resolution on the CCW in the First Committee. We hope that – as in previous years -the resolution will be adopted by consensus.
Portugal, 14 October
Advancing human security shall be our first and foremost objective. In this regard, we share specific humanitarian, moral and legal concerns related to ongoing developments on a set of the so-called “new era warfare tools”, including proliferation of amed drones, lethal autonomous weapons system eventual development, cyberspace aggressive use and, finally, risks of militarization of the outer space. We encourage, as a matter of urgency, the continuation of ongoing international discussions and initiatives on these subjects, both at political and technical levels. These discussions should take into account, in our view, the need to promote transparency and applicable international law or, when needed, the establishment of regulatory multilateral security frameworks responsive to the objective of protecting civilians and Human Rights universal requirements.
Romania, 26 October
We remain firmly committed to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its Protocols. We believe that discussing important issues related to the use of weapons systems and learning from each other’s national implementation activities provides a significant and real benefit, including from a humanitarian perspective. In this regard, we see merit in the expert discussions on Lethal Autonomous Weapons System in the framework of CCW.
South Africa, 26 October
Informal discussions on lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) have been taking place within the Certain Conventional Weapons Convention (CCW) for the last few years. From these informal discussions we have garnered a better understanding of lethal autonomous weapons systems, but many unanswered questions remain. For South Africa, a key question that should be of concern to all of us is whether these new technologies would be compliant with the rules of international humanitarian law, including those of distinction, proportionality and military necessity, as well as their potential impact on human rights. The concept of “meaningful human control” is something that my delegation is supportive of. In our view, there should always be meaningful human control in questions of life and death. It is therefore imperative that we deepen our understanding of the degree of human oversight or control that “autonomous weapons” – and even those of that are reportedly “semi-autonomous” — would require.
Sweden, 26 October 2015
Sweden remains firmly committed to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its protocols. We very much appreciated the opportunity at the second Expert Meeting in April this year to take a further look at the questions around lethal autonomous weapon systems, LAWS. As a starting point, Sweden has underlined that humans should not delegate to machines the power to make life-or death decisions. As States, we have an obligation to assess the legality of new weapons, and we therefore welcome a continued discussion of this issue within the framework of the CCW.
Switzerland, 8 October
We welcome the fact that the question of lethal autonomous weapon systems is being addressed within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). Thanks to work put in over the past two years, we now have a better grasp of this emerging problem. In this context, continued efforts in this domain are also necessary, notably with a view to specifying how existing mechanisms and standards apply to such weapon systems and to developing initial practical results.
Switzerland, 26 October
While artificial intelligence and robotics present both challenges and opportunities, the possible weaponisation of such technologies (namely Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, or LAWS) raises fundamental ethical, legal, operational and political questions. We welcome the broad consensus among CCW High Contracting Parties as well as among observers that international humanitarian law applies to all weapon systems, including LAWS, and has to be respected in all circumstances. The international community should now focus on the possible development of weapon systems which acquire and attack targets without appropriate human involvement. The dialogue begun in the CCW and other expert meetings on the implementation of legal reviews of new weapons, means and methods of warfare, in accordance with Article 36 of Additional Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions and customary international law, is a timely and valuable contribution to addressing the issue of LAWS and is important to ensure compliance with international law. Without prejudice to other topics, in-depth discussions on the effective implementation of weapon reviews with regard to LAWS seem warranted. Finally, we believe that the CCW, as an important treaty regulating means and methods of warfare, is the appropriate forum to address the issue of LAWS further. We support a more robust mandate in the CCW, which can lead to concrete results and ensure that the challenge posed by LAWS will be adequately addressed.
Turkey, 26 October
United Kingdom, 26 October
Just as its aid focuses on reparing the legacy of past conflicts, the UK is ready and willing to discuss potential future challenges. For that reason the UK took part in the productive informal meeting of experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems in April this year at the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). We thank Germany, and Ambassador Biontino in particular, for leading the discussions. This important issue sits well within the remit of the CCW and we support continuing in this vein next year.
United States, 26 October
The United States is a High Contracting Party to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and all of its Protocols. We view the CCW as an important instrument that has been able to bring together states with diverse national security conc.erns. In 2015 the High Contracting Parties continued important discussions on improvised explosive devices and Lethal Autonomous Weapons. Systems. We look forward to the meetings of High Contracting Parties in November and to establishing a robust program of work for 2016 to support preparations for the Fifth Review Conference of the CCW.
Africa Group – delivered by Nigeria, 26 October
The African Group seeks to raise the lingering question of autonomous weapons. The manufacture of Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) is a threshold that raises ethical, legal, moral and technical issues in relation to international humanitarian and international human rights law.
Arab Group – delivered by Egypt, 26 October
Major technological developments in lethal autonomous weapons is forcing the international disarmament community to give due attention to the challenges and threats emanating from these weapons. It’s important to discuss the issue in all its dimensions–legal, humanitarian, military, and moral– in order to develop restrictions on the use and development of artifical intelligence in autonomnous weapons and set boundaries and restrictions on their development, use, and stockpiling.
European Union, 26 October
With a view to strengthening international humanitarian law, the EU and its Member States remain firmly committed to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its Protocols, which provides a unique forum to gather diplomatic, legal and military expertise, and to address emerging issues. We believe that these instruments also constitute an effective means to respond in a flexible way to future developments in the field of weapons technology, and above all, represent an essential part of International Humanitarian Law. … We welcome the constructive ongoing discussions in the CCW on the technical, ethical, legal, operational and military aspects of lethal autonomous weapons systems. Those exchanges help to lay the ground for a better common understanding of the issue.
Non-Aligned Movement – delivered by Indonesia, 8 October
NAM is of the view that lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) raise a number of ethical, legal, moral and technical, as well as international peace and security related questions which should be thoroughly deliberated and examined in the context of conformity to international law including international humanitarian law and international human rights law. In this regard, NAM States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) welcome the informal meeting of CCW experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems held in Geneva from 13-17 April 2015 and support continued deliberations on this issue in the CCW on the basis of an agreed mandate. NAM States Parties to CCW welcome the accession of Algeria and Palestine to the Convention and its annexed protocols.
Nordic States – delivered by Finland, 8 October
The Nordic countries remain strongly committed to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its Protocols. The CCW is a forum that brings together expertise from many different fields and enables us to address a wide variety of issues, both long standing and newly emerging. We believe that humans should always bear the ultimate responsibility when dealing with questions of life and death. As States we have an obligation to assess the legality of new weapons, and we therefore welcome a continued discussion of lethal autonomous weapon systems, LAWS within the framework of the CCW.
UN Acting High Representative for Disarmament KIM Won-soo, 8 October
In this rapidly evolving world we are becoming ever more dependent on technology. Emerging technologies bring many benefits, but they could also pose challenges to peace and security if we do not prepare ourselves to mitigate the risks. I am concerned there is an institutional and normative vacuum – that the technology is more nimble than we are. The gap between the technological reality and our ability to govern them is growing. We need to find a way to narrow the gap – this is a battle we cannot lose. Our goal must be to ensure the strict application of international law to outer space, to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, to the development of increasingly autonomous weapons and especially to cyberspace.
International Committee of the Red Cross, 16 October
Another area of humanitarian concern is the development of weapon systems that are capable of independently selecting and attacking targets, without human intervention. This concerns a wide range of weapon systems which fall under the umbrella term of autonomous weapon systems, sometimes referred to as “lethal autonomous weapon systems”. Discussions of the legal, military and ethical implications of these weapons among government and independent experts in the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) have shown that there is broad agreement that human control over the critical functions of weapon systems must be retained. In view of the rapid pace of developments in military robotics, it is now urgent for States to consider what constitutes meaningful, or appropriate or effective, human control over the use of force. The ICRC encourages States to now turn their attention to fixing limits on autonomy in the critical functions of weapon systems, to ensure that they can be used in accordance with IHL and within the bounds of what is acceptable under the dictates of public conscience.
For more information, see:
- Campaign to Stop Killer Robots statement, press release, briefing for delegates, and photographs
- Statements available from Reaching Critical Will