In a landmark joint appeal, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Mirjana Spoljaric have called on states to ‘urgently establish new international rules on autonomous weapons systems, to protect humanity’.
Noting ‘the increasing availability and accessibility of sophisticated new and emerging technologies, such as in robotics and Artificial Intelligence technologies, that could be integrated into autonomous weapons’, the appeal highlights the serious humanitarian, legal, ethical and security concerns posed by such systems. The Secretary-General and the ICRC President further emphasise that:
‘We must act now to preserve human control over the use of force. Human control must be retained in life and death decisions. The autonomous targeting of humans by machines is a moral line that we must not cross. Machines with the power and discretion to take lives without human involvement should be prohibited by international law.’United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Mirjana Spoljaric
The appeal calls for the negotiation of specific prohibitions and regulations to be concluded by 2026, and implores states to ‘take decisive action now to protect humanity.’
The majority of states involved in international discussions on autonomous weapons systems support the negotiation of new international rules for these systems. There is also much common ground among states on key issues of concern, but progress in discussions has been blocked by a small number of states. As the Secretary-General and the ICRC President note in their joint appeal, it is not too late for states to take action. States now have the opportunity to take a positive step towards the joint appeal’s call by voting for a historic resolution on autonomous weapons at the 78th United Nations General Assembly.
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