13 May 2014, Vol. 1, No. 1
Editorial: Beginning work on autonomus weapons
Ray Acheson | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
The CCW begins its work today on autonomous weapon systems. These are the first multilateral discussions on this topic and will set the stage for further work on this subject at the United Nations. While this is an informal meeting of experts, it provides an opportunity for states to consider crucial issues related to the technical, legal, moral, and ethical dimensions of weapons that can kill without human intervention. Delegations must make the most of this chance to explore the parameters of meaningful human control and evaluate the lawfulness and morality of future autonomous weapons.
Civil society will be predominantly represented by members of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. The Campaign’s delegation to this meeting will be comprised of about 40 campaigners from 12 member organizations from several different countries. The Campaign’s call is clear: there must be no weapons without meaningful human control and an international prohibition on fully autonomous weapons is the most practical way to ensure this. It is also important for states to develop national policies on this issue.
As a member organization of the Campaign, WILPF is gravely concerned at the possibility of weapons that may operate without meaningful human control. The use of force has already become too disengaged from human involvement, with the use of armed drones. Autonomous weapons go beyond remotely-controlled drones, devolving life and death decision-making to software and sensors. This is unacceptable legally and morally. The reasons why will be illuminated over the following few days.
At this meeting, we encourage states to:
- Affirm that meaningful human control must be exercised over weapons;
- Explain how such control is exercised over existing weapon systems and how human control is defined in relevant national policies;
- Support the development of an international prohibition of weapon systems operating without meaningful human control; and
- Call for work on this subject to continue at the multilateral level.
Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament programme of WILPF, will provide full coverage of the CCW proceedings through this daily report. It will provide analysis and advocacy, highlights from the expert discussions, and reports on side events. You can subscribe to receive this report by email by going to www.reachingcriticalwill.org. On that website, you can also find statements, documents, archived CCW Reports, and more information.
You can also follow the discussions on Twitter at #CCWUN, #KillerRobots, @RCW_, and @BanKillerRobots, among others. Full a full list, please see twitter.com/BanKillerRobots/lists/ccw-may-2014.
For information about the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, please see www.stopkillerrobots.org.