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CCW Report, Vol. 3, No. 1

Third UN meeting on autonomous weapons set to begin amidst rising global military spending 


Ray Acheson
11 April 2016 

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The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) begins its third dedicated meeting on lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) on Monday. Since 2014, government officials, international organisations, civil society, and academics have gathered in Geneva to consider crucial issues related to the technical, legal, moral, and ethical dimensions of weapons that kill without meaningful human control. There is a lot at stake in these discussions, and after two years of experts meetings, states need to start taking concrete action on this issue.

This meeting begins just one week after the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) revealed its findings that global military spending has increased by 1% from 2014 to 2015. It marks the first time that military expenditure has risen since 2011 and is in part due to ongoing conflicts. Some states are already investing in activities aimed at research and development of LAWS. Delegations participating in this week’s meeting, which takes place during the 2016 Global Days of Action on Military Spending, should consider what these funds could be spent on instead.

The meeting will seek to cover a lot of ground. Led by presentations by a range of experts, it will begin by “mapping autonomy,” looking at current developments and issues of transparency. It will also begin discussions toward a working definition of LAWS, examining critical functions, autonomy, and predictability. It will then consider challenges to international humanitarian law; issues of human rights and ethics; and security issues, including destabilisation, proliferation, and military risks.

Such an agenda should provide states with the scope to set our more clearly their positions and objectives. As a member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, WILPF encourages states to:

  • Affirm that meaningful human control must be exercised over the selection of targets and over every individual attack or use of force;
  • Support the development of an international prohibition of weapon systems operating without meaningful human control; and
  • Call for the CCW Review Conference in December this year to establish a Group of Governmental Experts to begin such negotiations.

Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament programme of WILPF, will provide full coverage of the CCW proceedings through this daily report. It will provide analysis and advocacy, highlights from the expert discussions, and reports on side events. You can subscribe to receive this report by email by going to www.reachingcriticalwill.org. On that website, you can also find statements, documents, archived CCW Reports, and more information.

You can also follow the discussions on Twitter at #CCWUN, #killerrobots, @RCW_, and @BanKillerRobots, among others. For information about the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, please see www.stopkillerrobots.org

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