Time is running out on killer robots

Image: The Stop Killer Robots campaign team at the The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva.

November 26, 2018

The UN in Geneva has decided to continue talks on killer robots in 2019. However PAX is concerned that diplomacy is moving at a glacial pace while technology is advancing rapidly .

Daan Kayser, programme leader autonomous weapons at PAX, says: “We cannot continue talking forever. These weapons raise serious legal and ethical concerns and need to be banned as soon as possible. Time is running out.”

Keep talking
The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) held its annual meeting last week, and discussed how to proceed with its work on killer robots in 2019. A large majority of states want to continue working towards concrete outcomes in 2019. Many states underlined that human control over the use of force should be a central focus. However, since all decisions at the CCW have to be made by consensus, a small group of states was able to block the wish of the majority to work toward concrete policy outcomes. In addition, Russia insisted on meeting for only 7 days in 2019 to discuss killer robots, instead of the proposed 10 days. 

Not enough
PAX is deeply concerned about the fact that a small minority can block progress on killer robots. For PAX and the Campaign to Stop Killer robots ten days and a weak mandate was already the bare minimum to be able to make sufficient progress in 2019. “It is time for those states who do want to make meaningful progress to look for ways to move forward. The consequences of not addressing the issue as soon as possible will be far reaching”, says Kayser. For PAX a legally binding instrument is the only way to properly address all the legal, ethical and security concerns.

Calls for a ban
On a more positive note, momentum for a ban is growing. Morocco and El Salvador are the latest states to join in calling for a ban on autonomous weapons systems, bringing the total number of states doing so to 28. The Non-Aligned Movement and the African group have also called for a legally binding instrument. Recently the UN Secretary-General also called for a ban, calling the weapons “politically unacceptable and morally repugnant”. In September the EU Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the start of negotiations for a ban. These calls add to those of thousands of artificial intelligence scientists, civil society, religious leaders, and Nobel Peace Prize winners.

What did PAX do?
PAX made a statement during the general debate. Also PAX spoke at a side-event at the CCW in Geneva where it launched its new report and spoke about the European parliament resolution. PAX met with several European states stressing the need for a ban.

Read also: New PAX report on European positions on autonomous weapons

More about killer robots and why they should be banned.


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