News from Geneva
Nations agree to work on killer robots!
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots welcomes the historic decision taken by nations today to begin international discussions on how to address the challenges posed by fully autonomous weapons. The agreement marks the beginning of a process that the campaign believes should lead to an international ban on these weapons to ensure there will always be meaningful human control over targeting decisions and the use of violent force.
At 4:30pm on Friday, 15 November 2013 at the United Nations in Geneva, states parties to the Convention on Conventional Weapons agreed to convene on 13-16 May 2014 for their first meeting to discuss questions related to “lethal autonomous weapons systems” also known as fully autonomous weapons or “killer robots.” These weapons have not yet been developed, but technology is moving rapidly toward increasing autonomy.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots believes that robotic weapons systems should not be making life and death decisions on the battlefield. That would be inherently wrong, morally and ethically. Fully autonomous weapons are likely to run afoul of international humanitarian law, and that there are serious technical, proliferation, societal, and other concerns that make a preemptive ban necessary.
A total of 117 states are party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, including nations known to be advanced in developing autonomous weapons systems: United States, China, Israel, Russia, South Korea, and United Kingdom. Adopted in 1980, this framework convention contains five protocols, including Protocol I prohibiting non-detectable fragments, Protocol III prohibiting the use of air-dropped incendiary weapons in populated areas, and Protocol IV, which preemptively banned blinding lasers.
The agreement to begin work in the Convention on Conventional Weapons next year could lead to a future CCW Protocol VI prohibiting fully autonomous weapons.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots supports any action to urgently address fully autonomous weapons in any forum. The decision to begin work in the Convention on Conventional Weapons does not prevent work elsewhere, such as the Human Rights Council.
The agreement to begin an international process on these weapons comes just seven months after the launch of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a global coalition of 45 non-governmental organizations in 22 countries that is coordinated by Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch. The campaign calls for a pre-emptive and comprehensive ban on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons.
The campaign is grateful to Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel of France, President of the Convention on Conventional Weapons meeting, for his work to secure a mandate for action on fully autonomous weapons today.
Since the topic was first discussed at the Human Rights Council on 30 May 2013, more than 40 countries have spoken publicly on fully autonomous weaponssince May: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Holy See, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Russia, Sierra Leone, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States. All nations that have spoken out have expressed interest and concern at the challenges and dangers posed by fully autonomous weapons.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots urges nations to prepare for extensive and intensive work next year, both within the CCW and outside the CCW context. We urge states to develop national policies, and to respond to the call by UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Prof. Christof Heyns for national moratoria on fully autonomous weapons. We urge states to come back one year from now and agree to a new mandate to begin negotiations. The new process must be underscored by a sense of urgency.
The following spokespersons of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots are available for comment on the decision to begin international work on fully autonomous weapons:
- In Geneva: Mary Wareham, HRW, Tel. +1 (646) 203-8292, wareham[@]hrw.org,@marywareham
- In Geneva: Beatrice Fihn, WILPF, Tel. +41-78-613-0472, beatrice[@]reachingcriticalwill.org, @beafihn
- In London: Thomas Nash, Article 36, Tel. +44-7711-926-730, thomas[@]article36.org, @nashthomas
- In Ultrecht: Miriam Struyk, IKV Pax Christi, +31-6-48-98-14-93, struyk[@]ikvpaxchristi.nl,@miriamstruyk
- In Washington, DC: Noel Sharkey, ICRAC, +44(0)7771-977-726, robot[@]blueyonder.co.uk, @StopTheRobotWar
For more information, see:
- Backgrounder on the Convention on Conventional Weapons
- UN website on the Convention on Conventional Weapons
International Peace Bureau
The International Peace Bureau is dedicated to the vision of a World Without War. We are a Nobel Peace Laureate (1910), and over the years 13 of our officers have been recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. Our 300 member organisations in 70 countries, and individual members, form a global network bringing together expertise and campaigning experience in a common cause. IPB has UN Consultative Status since 1977 and is the Secretariat for the NGO Committee for Disarmament (Geneva). Our main programme centres onDisarmament for Sustainable Development, of which the Global Day of Action on Military Spending is a key part.
- Global Day of Action on Military Spending: April 14, 2014 – http://gdams.org
- .Making Peace photo-exhibition curated by Ashley Woods of REAL Exhibition Development (already displayed in Geneva, during our Nobel-centenary year 2010). Recently on show in Utrecht and Stockholm (Nobel Museum) 15 June – 17 Nov, 2013. Other locations being planned. http://www.makingpeace.org
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