Attending the UN Meeting on Killer Robots

Attending the experts’ meeting in Switzerland

Government representatives from 87 nations, UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and NGOs gathered for the convention. (May 13th, 2014)
Killer robots, or lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), are weapons that autonomously select and attack targets with no human intervention. Although they have not been used in the battlefield, it is estimated that the technology could be developed in 10-20 years. AAR Japan engages in a steering committee of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, an international civil society network launched in April 2013 which aims to pre-emptively ban fully autonomous weapons.

From 13th to 16th of May 2014, informal meeting of experts of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) took place at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. It was the first-ever multinational discussion on restricting killer robots. This meeting holds a major significance for work towards imposing restrictions on killer robots by CCW. As a member of Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, AAR sent its President, Yukie OSA, and Natsuki MATSUMOTO from AAR Tokyo office to the meeting.

“The challenge of killer robots is no different from that of atomic bombs”

President of AAR Japan, Yukie OSA speaking on the need for restricting killer robots. Pictured on the left is 1997 Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams. (May 13th, 2014)
In the plenary session on May 13, government representatives from 30 countries, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and 9 NGOs, including AAR, delivered their statements. President OSA remarked, "If we could have stopped the development of atomic bombs, the tragedy in Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have never happened." She stressed that there surely is a weapon that we should make a pre-emptive and comprehensive ban the development, production and use, and killer robots are one of them.

Click here  for full text of AAR statement. (62KB PDF)

The CCW experts' meeting progressed as specialists took the platform in turns to speak and answer questions on the topics that strongly relate to killer robots: international humanitarian law, other areas of international law, operational and military aspects, ethics and sociology, and technical issues. Through the sessions, all of which lasted longer than the scheduled time frame, a number of governments showed enthusiasm for tackling the challenge. During the meeting, a range of countries recognized the need for further multinational discussions in 2015. 5 countries urged international ban on killer robots, including Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Vatican Republic, and Pakistan. From November 14 to 17, 2014, the meeting of the States parties of CCW will be held to determine whether there’s a need for discussions on restricting killer robots under the framework of CCW.

AAR will support further discussions

About 40 people from member organizations of Campaign to Stop Killer Robots attended the meeting. May 12, 2014 (Geneva) (c) Campaign to Stop Killer Robots
This is only the beginning of international efforts for imposing a restriction on killer robots. Cooperation from the international community and citizens is vital for preventing the development of these threatening weapons. AAR believes that the challenge of killer robots is a humanitarian problem that requires civil society to work together, rather than just a political or military problem, and will continue to support further discussions.
In April 2013, Campaign to Stop Killer Robots was launched as a global coalition of NGOs keen to work on the challenge of killer robots. The current members include 51 organizations from 24 nations.
"Campaign to Stop Killer Robots" 
※ Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) is a treaty for prohibiting or restricting the use of inhumane weapons, with 117 state parties including Japan (as of May 21, 2014). The treaty is composed of a framework convention and five protocols for restriction on normal weapons, such as weapons that use fragments that are not detectable by X-ray, landmines and booby traps, incendiary weapons, laser weapons that precipitate blindness, and weapons that produce unexploded ordnances.
Natsuki MATSUMOTO, AAR Tokyo Office
Public Relations Officer at the Tokyo Headquarters Office since April 2012. Graduated from university and progressed to graduate school, while working with the UN as an intern. Joined AAR Japan after completing MA course. (Profile at time of publication)