Forum on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems

02.04.2020 - Article

In times of crisis, it is crucial that we continue to address urgent issues through international cooperation.

Killer robots, swarms of mini-drones and innovative missile systems are no longer the stuff of science fiction
Killer robots, swarms of mini-drones and innovative missile systems are no longer the stuff of science fiction© Picture Alliance

Within the framework of the Alliance for Multilateralism, Foreign Minister Maas has launched a virtual forum on the regulation of lethal autonomous weapons, in which 63 countries are participating.

Despite the global health crisis and its dramatic economic and political impacts, the international community must continue to work together on the big issues of international policy. New weapons systems represent a significant risk for the coming decades. Killer robots, swarms of mini-drones and innovative missile systems are no longer the stuff of science fiction. Germany has played an important role in initiating talks on the regulation of these non-conventional weapons systems right from the beginning. Within the framework of the Alliance for Multilateralism, established in 2019, Foreign Minister Maas invited experts from the fields of politics, industry, military affairs and civil society to discuss the issue at a virtual forum on autonomous weapons systems.

Significant progress made over the past year

Since the specially established working group of the Geneva weapons convention (CCWC) began meeting six years ago, Germany has been working to bring about regulation of lethal autonomous weapons systems. The Federal Government’s aim is to achieve a global ban on fully automated weapons systems that operate entirely outside human control. Negotiations got off to a slow start, but significant progress was made last year. For the first time, the participants reached agreement on binding guiding principles relating to key aspects such as human responsibility and control. The group also agreed to formulate recommendations for a comprehensive normative framework by 2021.

The aim of the Berlin Forum is to facilitate further steps in negotiations towards a collective normative framework and to concretise the guiding principles that have been agreed upon. A total of 63 countries, many of them members of the Alliance for Multilateralism, take part.

Letting machines decide over life and death of human beings runs against all of our ethical standards,

said Foreign Minister Maas.

Key issue of German foreign policy

Disarmament and arms control are key concerns of German foreign policy. In a world in which the number of registered mobile phones exceeds the number of people on earth and hacker attacks have become an everyday reality, disarmament policy must pay adequate attention to modern technologies.

In March 2019, 450 government representatives and experts from across the world attended the conference “Rethinking Arms Control”, at the invitation of Foreign Minister Maas. A follow-up conference is scheduled for 6 November of this year, the aim of which is to advance international talks on effective arms control in the field of new technologies.

The task of establishing an effective arms control architecture that is fit for the future requires an understanding of the big picture and close cooperation among all states and actors with an interest in long-term global security. In the words of Foreign Minister Maas:

More than ever, in these times of crisis, we need global solidarity. More than ever, we need cooperation across borders and functioning international organisations.


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