The third Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) meeting of experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) will take place 11-15 April 2016 at the United Nations in Geneva.
WILPF’s disarmament programme, Reaching Critical Will represents WILPF in the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and will participate in this meeting to advocate for a preventative ban on LAWS. We will also report on and analyse the meeting, which will examine the technical, ethical, and legal implications of LAWS.
The concept of a machine engaging in attacks without meaningful human control goes against principles of humanity and the laws of human rights. There are a number of legal, operational, and technical arguments that can be made against such systems, but at its very core the problem is one of morality and ethics. Relegating actions of life or death to the software and algorithms of machines is immoral, unethical, irresponsible, dangerous, and unacceptable.
At the Human Rights Council in Geneva last month, two high-ranking UN experts issued a report that includes a call to ban LAWS. Professor Christof Heyns of South Africa, who serves as UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, presented the report on “the proper management of assemblies” issued jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. The report recommends that: “Autonomous weapons systems that require no meaningful human control should be prohibited.” Heyns will address the meeting of experts this week, as he has done at previous CCW meets on this topic in 2014 and 2015. Several members of our Campaign have also been invited as expert speakers at this meeting, and we will be hosting side events and publishing daily reports from the meeting.
We already know that several states support and fund activities targeted at the development and research on LAWS, and robotic systems with varying degrees of autonomy and lethality have already been deployed by the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, and the Republic of Korea. It goes without saying that this money would be better spent on peace and social justice than on this dangerous emerging technology, which has already been condemned by the ICRC, various civil society organisations, and a number of experts.
To stay updated on the meeting, follow Reaching Critical Will on twitter and you can receive our CCW Report with coverage of this meeting by signing up here to our “conventional weapons/emerging technologies of violence” mailing list.
Further reading from WILPF on killer robots: