Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued the following statement today (15 November 2019) on the reaching of an agreement on guiding principles relating to the use of fully autonomous weapons systems in the context of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW):
Killer robots must never become a reality. After five years of difficult negotiations, we today for the first time reached broad international consensus on red lines for the use of autonomous weapon system functions. The adoption in Geneva of guiding principles by the 125 States Parties to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons brings us a big step closer to our goal, namely a worldwide ban on fully autonomous lethal weapons systems.
The guiding principles state that international law shall apply to all future weapons systems, and they set out key principles regarding, for example, human responsibility and attribution for use of these weapons; this outcome was achieved thanks to long negotiations, and despite some substantial opposition.
I particularly want to thank all of the countries that joined our appeal in support of these guiding principles at the meeting of the Alliance for Multilateralism in New York in September.
However, this by far does not mean that we have reached our objective. Although, with the guiding principles, we have indeed laid a foundation for regulating lethal autonomous weapons systems.
Since 2014, Germany has been working within the framework of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to regulate lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS). These systems – also referred to as killer robots – apply artificial intelligence to weapons systems and therefore concern future forms of warfare.
The aim of the German Government in these negotiations is a worldwide ban on fully autonomous lethal weapons systems. Foreign Minister Maas has personally worked to facilitate progress in the Geneva negotiations: he placed the issue on the agenda of the meeting of the Alliance for Multilateralism in New York on 26 September, which was attended by more than 50 foreign ministers. At that meeting, ministers signed a joint declaration in support of both the guiding principles and constructive continuation of the Geneva negotiations.
Today, in Geneva, an important milestone was reached at the meeting of CCW States Parties. The 125 participants for the first time reached agreement on guiding principles relating to the use of lethal autonomous weapons systems. These constitute the first politically binding regulations and include such key aspects as human attribution and responsibility, human control in chains of command and the full applicability of international law to all future weapons systems. With this agreement, the German Government has been able to implement many of its key demands, because the guiding principles now contain a large number of the proposals that were fed into the negotiations in 2018 in the form of a Franco-German draft political declaration.
Moreover, CCW States Parties agreed to draft a normative framework by the time of the CCW Review Conference in 2021, following the agreement today of the respective programme of work. The framework will comprise a final list of the guiding principles and operational guidelines on the respective legal, military and technological aspects.