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Geneva: no agreement in talks on regulating killer robots

‘Government leaders need to draw a moral and legal line for humanity against the killing of people by machines’ - Richard Moyes

The Stop Killer Robots coalition - which includes Amnesty International - has condemned a lack of progress in agreeing international rules on regulating the development and use of autonomous weapons, or “killer robots”. 

A five-day meeting in Geneva - the Sixth Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) - has today failed to reach agreement, notably after opposition from Russia and the USA. Both of these countries already invest heavily in the development of autonomous weapons.

This week’s meeting, coming after eight years of inter-governmental talks, appears to show that a powerful minority of countries are determined to block a majority which wishes to agree an international law which echoes the conditions that led to the creation of the landmine and cluster munitions treaties. 

Campaigners now believe a separate process from the long-running series of UN talks may be needed to ensure future progress on the issue. Austrian Foreign Minister, Alexander Schallenberg, and New Zealand’s Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, Phil Twyford, have both called for the development of a new international law regulating autonomous weapons. The new government coalition agreements of Norway and Germany have also promised to take action on the issue, and there has been consistent cross-regional leadership at the UN with 68 countries calling for a legal instrument.

Meanwhile, thousands of tech and AI experts and scientists, the Stop Killer Robots campaign, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the ICRC, 26 Nobel Laureates and wider civil society have called for new international laws. 

Verity Coyle, Senior Advisor at Amnesty International, said:

“As research and testing of these weapons presses forward, the window of opportunity to regulate grows ever smaller. 

“The CCW has once again demonstrated its inability to make meaningful progress - it’s now time that committed states take the lead on an external process that can deliver the type of breakthrough we’ve previously seen on landmines and cluster munitions.” 

Richard Moyes, Coordinator at Stop Killer Robots, said:

“Government leaders need to draw a moral and legal line for humanity against the killing of people by machines. 

“A clear majority of states see the need to ensure meaningful human control over the use of force. It’s time now for them to lead in order to prevent the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of killer robots.”

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