Towards a ban on Killer Robots: Formal talks begin in 2017

Programmed robots choosing their targets on their own and killing them-in order to prevent this grim realization, AAR Japan has been working to ban Killer Robots. 

From 12 to 16 December 2016, the 5th Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) was held at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland. As a steering committee member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, an international coalition of civil society, Natsuki MATSUMOTO of AAR participated.

To prevent the possible tragedy

CCW is a convention which consists of a main treaty and five additional protocols that restrict the use of inhumane weapons, such as weapons with fragments undetectable by X-rays, landmines, booby traps, incendiary weapons, blinding laser weapons, and weapons which may cause unexploded ordnance. In recent years, the possibility of restricting lethal autonomous weapons systems(LAWS) is being argued, urged by civil societies led by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. In this conference, the main focus was on whether we could reach an agreement on setting a GGE (Group of Governmental Experts) in 2017. For 3 years since 2014, there was only
a one-week long informal session per year as an opportunity for each government to collectively discuss the issue. If GGE is organized, however, it would provide opportunities for longer official discussions, which will then encourage governmental talks and initiate a great step forward for the adoption of legally binding documents that would regulate the use of LAWS.

89 countries and regions participated in the session (16th Dec 2016)

89 ratified countries or acceded states, international organizations and representatives of NGOs participated in the conference. 60 countries including Japan made statements during the general assembly on the first day, 50 of which mentioned Killer Robots (LAWS). As most of these countries supported the idea of setting up a GGE, it was a good start. After the statement from each government, 7 NGOs including AAR made statements, demanding acceleration of the discussion and an immediate ban on the use of Killer Robots.
In addition, Argentina, Guatemala, Panama, Peru and Venezuela newly made statements, demanding a preventative ban on LAWS during the meeting. With this move, the number of countries demanding a ban on Killer Robots increased to 19, including Algeria, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, Holy see, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Palestine, and Zimbabwe. 
The significance of GGE in CCW is that the discussion would not only be open to experts from a limited number of countries, but also to non-ratified countries, international organizations, and NGOs. Although one country claimed that “it is premature to discuss about weapons that are not yet in existence at CCW”, eventually an agreement was made that GGE will be held in Geneva in 2017. The period is 10 days either from 24 to 28 in July or 21 to 25 August 2017 (the exact date to be announced), and 13 to 17 October. It will be presided by Ambassador Singh Gill of India.
During the meeting, both governments and NGOs referred many times to the appalling conditions in Aleppo, Syria caused by inhumane weapons. Banning Killer Robots is not a wild tale, it is absolutely necessary to prevent further tragedies which might occur in the near future. Since AAR has been supporting survivors of inhumane weapons such as landmines, we feel a great sense of responsibility to continue to raise our voices toward the ban of Killer Robots.
The “-Campaign to Stop Killer Robots-” was formed in April 2013, as an international coalition of NGOs concerned with the issue. Today, 61 organizations from 26 countries are working together in this movement and are always happy to welcome new organizations as members. Please let us know if you are interested.

With members of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots from around the world. Second Left, Natsuki MATSUMOTO of AAR (CCampaign to Stop Killer Robots/15th Dec 2016

Matsumoto has been involved in the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots since February 2014.After working in the department of public relations and service for supporters at the Tokyo HQ, she has since worked at the AAR Turkey Office from August 2016. Born in Tokyo.