NIBC first bank worldwide to adopt policy against killer robots

Image: PAX maakt zich grote zorgen over het feit dat de diplomatie enorm traag gaat en de technologie snel vordert. Foto PAX

October 23, 2019

Dutch Bank NIBC is the first bank globally to decide to preventively exclude companies that produce lethal autonomous weapons systems. PAX is happy with this step and with the reasoning behind it. Robin Willing from NIBC said: “These weapons are inherently designed to threaten and inflict harm. We don’t want to invest in them.”

Lethal autonomous weapons systems are weapons systems that can operate without meaningful human control. In other words, after being programmed and launched by humans, they would autonomously select and attack targets without further human intervention. There are serious concerns about the development and use of these weapons, not only because they would lower the threshold to use violence, but also because decisions about life and death should not be delegated to algorithms or machines. Read more about this here.

Lethal autonomous weapons do not yet exist, but technology is developing rapidly. A recent PAX report showed 21 technology companies at high risk of contributing, intentionally or accidentally, to the development of autonomous weapons. There is still time to prevent autonomous weapons from becoming reality, but action is urgently needed. NIBC’s step to put in place a policy against lethal autonomous weapons is therefore really welcome.

Spread awareness

Financial institutions can play an important role in making this happen. By way of their role in the global economy, they hold significant leverage that they can use to realize real impact. Engaging with both the tech- and defense sectors is an important way to spread awareness among those industries about the concerns surrounding autonomous weapons, and to clearly signal that companies that do develop such weapons will become subject to exclusionary screening.

Harm and destruction

Robin Willing, senior sustainability officer at NIBC said: “Weapons are inherently designed to threaten and inflict harm. Autonomous weapons and other highly controversial weapons have the potential to propagate destruction indiscriminately and at scale. The risk goes well beyond the capacity of any responsible bank or investor to manage the harms to civilian populations and related human rights impacts if and when they occur. This is why we have chosen to exclude weapons from our financings and investments.”

NIBC is a Dutch bank that offers corporate and consumer banking activities active in Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands. NIBC held €21.5 billion in total assets as of the end of 2018. NIBC already had in place a comprehensive policy excluding companies involved in other controversial weapons, including nuclear weapons and cluster munitions, from investment. It has now added autonomous weapons to its list of weapon types it considers controversial and will not invest in.

Read more about this PAX project:

Get involved with our peace work.
Subscribe to the PAX Action Alert.