UN agrees to more talks on autonomous weapons as support for prohibition grows
At the end of last week’s UN discussions on lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS), states agreed on recommendations for further, more formal deliberations next year through an open-ended Group of Governmental Experts (GGE). This body, if states accept the recommendation at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) Review Conference in December 2016, would operate for a currently undetermined length of time in 2017 and might continue through 2018. While the establishment of a GGE is a welcome step, the recommendations adopted last week only call for the GGE to “explore and agree on possible recommendations on options related to emerging technologies in the area of LAWS.” This is an unambitious mandate that does not reflect either the pace of technological development nor the urgency of ensuring that meaningful human control is retained over weapon systems and the use of force.
The need for meaningful human control, as well as the ethical and moral questions around relinquishing control over the use of violent force to machines, has remained at the heart of debate over the past three years. Fourteen states, thousands of scientists, two UN special rapporteurs, and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots are all urging the negotiation of a legally-binding instrument to prevent the development, deployment, and use of LAWS. States concerned with the challenges raised by these systems should work with urgency toward negotiations on such an instrument.
Read the Campaign to Stop Killer Robot's blog post on the meeting.