Fri, 26 Apr 2019

Autonomous weapons that kill must be banned, insists UN chief

United Nations
26 Mar 2019, 05:21 GMT+10

In a message to the Group of Governmental Experts, the UN chief said that machines with the power and discretion to take lives without human involvement are politically unacceptable, morally repugnant and should be prohibited by international law.

No country or armed force is in favour of such fully autonomous weapon systems that can take human life, Mr Guterres insisted, before welcoming the panels statement last year that human responsibility for decisions on the use of weapons systems must be retained, since accountability cannot be transferred to machines.

Although this 2018 announcement was an important line in the sand by the Group of Governmental Experts - which meets under the auspices of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) the UN chief noted in his statement that while some Member States believe new legislation is required, while others would prefer less stringent political measures and guidelines that could be agreed on.

Nonetheless, it is time for the panel to deliver on LAWS, the UN chief said, adding that it is your task now to narrow these differences and find the most effective way forwardThe world is watching, the clock is ticking and others are less sanguine. I hope you prove them wrong.

The LAWS meeting is one of two planned for this year, which follow earlier Governmental Expert meetings in 2017 and 2018 at the UN in Geneva.

The Groups agenda covers technical issues related to the use of lethal autonomous weapons systems, including the challenges the technology poses to international humanitarian law, as well as human interaction in the development, deployment and use of emerging tech in LAWS.

In addition to the Governmental Experts, participation is expected from a wide array of international organizations, civil society, academia, and industry.

The CCWs full name is the 1980 Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, entered into force on 2 December 1983.

The Convention currently has 125 States Parties. Its purpose is to prohibit or restrict the use of specific types of weapons that are considered to cause unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering to combatants or to affect civilians indiscriminately.

In previous comments on AI, the Secretary-General likened the technology to a new frontier with advances moving at warp speed.

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to accelerate progress towards a dignified life, in peace and prosperity, for all people, he said at the AI for Good Global Summit in 2017, adding that there are also serious challenges and ethical issues which must be taken into account including cybersecurity, human rights and privacy.

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