CCW convention makes progress on key issues of deadly autonomous weapons

03:24 PM | 17 Nov, 2019
CCW convention makes progress on key issues of deadly autonomous weapons

GENEVA - The Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) has agreed to renew the efforts for making an international consensus on regulating the use of deadly autonomous weapons. Earlier, the signatory states to the treaty remained divided on the question.

The annual CCW convention, which concluded on Friday evening was presided over by Pakistan. The CCW also agreed on a package of financial measures to help the long-term implementation of the treaty as well as on the dates of the next Review Conference in 2021 wherein major decisions in follow-up to this year’s meeting are expected.

Diplomats on the occasion, complimented Pakistan’s new Ambassador to the UN and other international organizations, Pakistani representative Khalil Hashmi, who chaired the meeting, for his “savvy handling” of the three days of intense discussions to accommodate divergent positions.

The talks in Geneva took place under the 1983 convention, which intended to restrict the use of weapons “that are considered to cause unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering to combatants or to affect civilians indiscriminately”. It already covers landmines, booby traps, incendiary weapons, blinding laser weapons and clearance of explosive war remnants.

The delegates have had discussions on potential restrictions under international law to so-called lethal autonomous weapons systems, known as “killer robots”, which use artificial intelligence to help decide when and who to kill.

Most of the participating states, particularly those from the global south, including Pakistan support either a total ban or strict legal regulation governing their development and deployment, a position backed by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, who has described machines empowered to kill as “morally repugnant”.

But a group of states with advance technological base, including the UK, Australia, Israel, Russia and the US – oppose any legal regulation. Even India doesn’t support a ban on autonomous weapons. As discussions operate on a consensus basis, their objections are preventing any progress on regulation.

Pakistan has long been viewed as an ‘honest-broker’ at international multilateral forums; building bridges between parties with diverse positions and helping reach a common understanding. This year as well, this longstanding tradition of Pakistan’s diplomacy was at the full view as Pakistani chairperson played an instrumental role in facilitating agreement on several key issues, including a new mandate for future work on autonomous weapons.

As Chairman, Ambassador Hashmi carefully balanced the views of participating states as well as those of the strong contingent of civil society and NGOs who were also present as observers.

“At a time when polarization is increasing and the challenges facing the international disarmament regime are multiplying,” the Pakistani envoy said, “the continued success of this instrument is a very positive sign”.