At the United Nations in Geneva this week, a new round of negotiations got under way on autonomous weapons systems. The aim is to find binding regulations for the wars of the future. Very soon, lethal weapons may be employed that are guided exclusively by artificial intelligence. Germany is campaigning for a worldwide ban on such fully autonomous weapons systems.
There are signs that the negotiation process is shaping up to be long and difficult. Some countries are investing a great deal of money in the development of autonomous weapons systems and reject all calls for regulation. Numerous countries, however, are calling for an immediate ban.
Gradual progress towards an international ban
Germany believes in a step-by-step approach. To one day effectively ban lethal autonomous weapons, countries that are currently developing such weapons must be brought on board. A ban that is not supported by all countries would ultimately not have the desired effect.
That is why Germany’s first goal is to reach agreement on a political declaration. It should state that all weapons systems must be controlled by humans. The purpose of the declaration is for all countries to express their view that killer robots are unacceptable to the international community.
Germany leading the way
Since 2014, Germany has made a major contribution to the international discourse during informal consultations on lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS). Germany held the chairmanship in the Geneva working groups on LAWS in 2015 and 2016. The International Panel on the Regulation of Autonomous Weapons (iPRAW), supported by Federal Foreign Office funding, brings together experts from around the world in order to drive forward the States Parties’ consultations with research work, publications and presentations.