Killer robot talks cancelled

Image: Beeld uit de animatiefilm Stop Killer Robots.

May 31, 2017

A first-of-its-kind meeting of experts planned for August to discuss concerns about killer robots has been cancelled. The United Nations announced that that the meeting would not take place due to lack of funds, a result of structural non-payment of UN dues by a number of member countries. PAX is extremely concerned by this development.

This was to be the first meeting of the so-called Group of Government Experts to discuss legal, ethical and security concerns about killer robots. These are weapons systems that can select targets and attack without any human control. PAX has fundamental objections to these types of weapons systems. Machines should not be able to decide who is a legitimate target.

Time is of the essence
“Technological developments move much quicker than diplomatic processes. There is a very limited time left for countries to decide where to draw the line,” says Miriam Struyk, programme director at PAX. “That’s why the cancelation of this meeting is so alarming. We just don’t have time to twiddle our thumbs. Decisions have to be made now.”

A number of countries are behind in paying their dues to support four UN disarmement treaty programmes, including the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), but according to the UN’s official summary, 86% of these back payments are owed by Brazil. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, co-founded by PAX, has urged Brazil to pay up. The Campaign also called on all states party to the CCW to come up with a solution to allow these meetings to proceed.

“The collective failure of countries to find a solution to their financial woes doesn’t mean they can stop addressing concerns over weapons that would select and attack targets without further human intervention,” says Mary Wareham, coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. “If the CCW is unable to act, nations must find other ways to maintain the momentum toward a ban.” 

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