I am honoured to send a message to this open symposium on lethal autonomous weapons systems.
Secretary-General António Guterres places particular importance on the role of the international community in responding to the possible implications of new technologies, including for international peace and security.
This notion formed one of three key pillars in his new agenda for disarmament, Securing Our Common Future, released in May last year.
The agenda acknowledges the significant benefits that advances in science and technology have brought the world, including to advance the 2030 agenda. However, it also highlights the fact that developments in science and technology are enabling, at an accelerating pace, the design and acquisition of new weapon technologies with still unclear and potentially dangerous applications. It also draws attention to the real risk that these technological developments will outpace normative efforts, which proceed at a more sedate pace.
Developments in artificial intelligence and robotics could enable greater autonomy and the use of related technologies in weapons and other military systems. The possible implications are multi-dimensional, far-reaching and could spark a new arms race.
The expanded use of autonomous technologies in warfare could create the perception that armed conflict can be initiated without risk or collateral harm, thereby affecting calculations for resorting to the use of force.
Increasing autonomy in the critical functions of weapons systems will likely strain existing legal frameworks, raising questions about ensuring human accountability for the use of force. There are also profound ethical questions about delegating decisions about life and death to algorithms.
At the 2018 Web Summit last November, the Secretary-General stated unequivocally that autonomous weapons with the discretion and capacity to take human lives would be politically unacceptable, morally repugnant and should be banned.
In his agenda for disarmament, the Secretary-General pledged to support the efforts of States to elaborate new measures to ensure that humans remain at all times in control over the use of force.
In this connection, the progress made in intergovernmental discussion of this issue within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) is encouraging. I was pleased that the group was able to achieve a substantive outcome in 2018, which included ten possible guiding principles and agreement to continue to the deliberative process in 2019.
I hope that in 2019, States and their partners in the CCW, including coalitions such as this one, can build upon this achievement and the shared understandings reached to date. It is important now to cultivate and build upon areas of convergence – in particular, the need to retain human control over the use of force – and identify how to move forward.
＊ ＊＊＊ ＊