Accelerate International Deliberations to Ban Killer Robots

On November 12th and 13th, 2015, the annual meeting of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) was held at the United Nations Office of Geneva, Switzerland. Natsuki MATSUMOTO of AAR Japan participated in the plenary session as a Steering Committee member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, an international coalition of civil society launched in April 2013.

“Killer Robots (lethal autonomous robots)” refer to weapons systems that have the ability to autonomously select targets and attack them without human judgments. Whlie such technology is not yet fully developed,  should such autonomous weapons be implemented on the battlefield, it would become possible for these robots to attack targets without human intervention.

Representatives from governments of approximately 100 countries, international organizations and non-governmental organizations participated in a Meeting of the States parties of the CCW. (November 13th, 2015)

Is it possible to regulate weapons that don’t yet exist?

On November 12th, representatives from governments of 41 countries, including Japan, EU, and also from the UN, United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), the International Committee of the Red Cross, and non-governmental organizations presented their views on the implementation and universalization progress of the CCW in each country or area and their overall ideas. Among them, 37 countries referred to Killer Robots. Many participants insisted that from a humanitarian point of view, Killer Robots should be regulated from an early stage.  Organizations from the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots strongly asserted that their argument for regulating Killer Robots should be increasingly promoted through the plenary session and its side events at the CCW and at other locations as well. On the second day, discussions on Killer Robots continued. There were such opinions as “the term “Killer Robots” is not clearly defined,” and “is it necessary to debate about weapons that do not yet exist?” However, it is not impossible to regulate future weapons because blinding lasers, which are controlled by the fourth protocol to theCCW, are preemptively banned on the basis of a humanitarian viewpoint.

Reference to blinding lasers: Human Rights Watch, “Ramp Up Action to Ban Killer Robots – Blinding Lasers Prohibition Offers Precedent,” November 9, 2015 (English)

There is an even greater sense of urgency to discuss the regulation of Killer Robots at the CCW considering the fact that autonomous weapons and artificial intelligence are developing at an alarming speed. It was agreed that the discussion on Killer Robots would be continued next year.

The issues concerning Killer robots are not only political or militant in nature, but is a humanitarian challenge that affects all of civil society. AAR will continue to report on this issue from Japan in the hopes that we will not have a future where humans are killed by robots.

Non-governmental organization representatives spoke lively one after another. Natsuki MATSUMOTO of AAR Japan. (Centre)(November 12th, 2015 © Campaign to Stop Killer Robots)

“Campaign to Stop Killer Robots” was founded in April 2013 as an international coalition of non-governmental organizations who were concerned about the issue of lethal robots. At present, 56 organizations from 25 countries have joined it.  More participants are welcomed at any time. If interested, please contact us at AAR or the campaign office.
(Campaign to Stop Killer Robots) http://www.stopkillerrobots.org/
Natsuki MATSUMOTO  Tokyo Office [reporter]
Graduated from university and progressed to graduate school, while working with an international organization as an intern.  After graduation, joined AAR Japan. In charge of PR at the Tokyo Headquarters Office since April 2012.  In charge of aid to Nepal and Zambia etc since October 2015.  (Profile as of the date of the article)