UN talks to resolve rules regarding fully-autonomous weapon systems have met stiff opposition from nations that heavily invest in AI military technology.
On Friday, at the sixth review conference of Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), negotiations on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) were not arranged. The convention’s parties merely agreed that they would continue the discussions.
Despite calls for an “ambitious plan” made earlier by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the five-day gathering in Geneva bore little fruit, after nations that are investing heavily in the development of ‘killer robots’ blocked a decision on the establishment of legally-binding rules.
The vetoing countries included the USA, Russia, India and China, according to Reuters.
Many states and non-governmental organizations have voiced dismay at the inability to make progress at Geneva. Alexander Schallenberg (Austrian Foreign Minister) and Phil Twyford, New Zealand Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, have highlighted the importance of creating new international laws to regulate autonomous weapons.
Commenting on the conference’s outcome, Neil Davison, a policy adviser in the Legal Division at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), described it as a “A missed chance.” Verity Coyle, a senior adviser at Amnesty International, said the “CCW demonstrated once more its inability for meaningful progress.” Richard Moyes, a coordinator at the organization ‘Stop Killer Robots’, urged governments to “Humanity must draw a clear moral and legal line against machines killing people.”
Contrary to the military drones in current use, fully autonomous weapons can take control of their lives and make all decisions without the intervention of any human. UN data suggests that these weapons systems have probably been in use before. In March 2020, the UN reported that the first autonomous drone strike took place in Libya. Although the account does not mention whether casualties were sustained, the use of these weapons is a significant advancement in warfare.