Q3/2018 - Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (GGE-LAWS

3rd Meeting, Geneva, 27 - 31 August 2018

At the third meeting of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) further agreement was reached about the definitions and characteristics of Letha Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS). A special discussion focus was on the “human factor” in a command chain in which LAWS play a role ("aspects of human-machine interaction in the development, deployment and use of emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems"). In addition to that, the use of such weapons in military operations in war zones and the role and application of the Geneva Conventions with regard to international humanitarian law in such operations were discussed.

Despite many small controversies, the chair of the GGE, Indian Ambassador Amandeep Singh Gill, who also is the head of the New York Secretariat of the new UN High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, was able to submit a report to the 73th Session of the UN General Assembly only a few days after the GGE-LAWS meeting, which outlines the cornerstones of a potential consensus with a view to a possible moratorium or a new international treaty. This refers in particular to the ten "Possible Guiding Principles", but also to an agreement on six so-called "characteristics" of the new weapons systems and eight cornerstones for the design of human-machine interaction in the development, deployment and use of lethal autonomous weapons systems.

In his opening address at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly on 24 September 2018, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the GGE-LAWS report as a positive example that demonstrates that despite growing crises in the world and the political polarisation that accompanies them, areas can be found in which understanding between hostile parties seems possible. The GGE-LAWS is primarily an intergovernmental group of experts formed by governments. However, numerous non-governmental representatives from business, academia, civil society and the technical community take part in the discussions.

In 2019, the GGE-LAWS will first of all report to the Fifth Review Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the CCW (Convention on the Restriction on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects). The GGE-LAWS obtained its mandate three years ago from a CCW Review Conference. The group’s work schedule for 2019 includes two further one-week work sessions in Geneva.

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