by Emma Farge
GENEBRAS (Reuters) – Countries participating in the United Nations negotiations on autonomous weapons interrupted talks shortly before the launch of negotiations to create an international treaty to regulate them, but agreed to maintain the discussions.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and several non-profit organizations had been pressing negotiators to start work on an international treaty that would create rules on the use of robot-operated weapons.
Unlike semi-autonomous weapons like drones, autonomous weapons do not have a human-operated device that interrupts their action and instead leave decisions about life and death to sensors, software and microprocessors.
Opponents of such technology say it increases the risks for civilians, poses problems of accountability and increases the chances of escalating conflicts.
The eight-year talks in Geneva have gained a new sense of urgency since a UN panel published a report in March that said the first autonomous drone attack may already have taken place in Libya.
“This is a really missed opportunity and not what is needed to respond to the risks that autonomous weapons pose,” said Neil Davison, who is part of the ICRC’s legal division, of the outcome of this week’s talks.
Many countries also expressed disappointment with the result.
“At the current pace of progress, the pace of technological development risks surpassing our deliberations,” said the Swiss ambassador for disarmament Felix Baumann.
The UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons has 125 members and has been discussing possible legal limits on the use of lethal autonomous weapons, known as “LAWS”. These weapons are fully machine-operated and use new technologies such as artificial intelligence and facial recognition.
Sources following the discussions said that Russia, India and the United States are among the countries that expressed doubts about the need for a treaty to regulate the “Laws”.
Clare Conboy, from the group “Stop Killer Robots” stated that the outcome of the discussions “keeps very satisfied the minority of militarized states that invest in the development of these weapons”.
She said she hopes that many countries that are in favor of creating the new treaty, such as New Zealand and Austria, will start negotiations outside the United Nations.
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