The UN versus LAWS


Since May 2014, the United Nations has been engaged in an international debate on the development of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), also known as “killer robots”. The High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) have adopted a new mandate: “to discuss further the questions related to emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), in the context of the objectives and purposes of the Convention.”

Meeting for the first time in November 2017, a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE), chaired by Indian Ambassador Amandeep Singh Gill, was tasked with reviewing emerging technologies in LAWS. One of the guidelines in the consensus report of this meeting is that the responsibility for the deployment of any conflict weapons system rests with the states. “States must be accountable for lethal acts by their forces in armed conflict,” said Ambassador Singh Gill at the last GGE meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on 9 April 2018.

Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, noted at the event that the new technologies were “giving rise very quickly to new methods and means of warfare with potentially undesirable or unclear consequences”. She stressed on the responsibility of the group to “build consensus on common understandings on  possible limits on the degree of autonomy in the use of lethal force”.

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