Q3/2019 - Group of Governmental Experts for Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (GGE LAWS)
The second part of the 2019 annual meeting of the GGE LAWS was held in Geneva on 20 and 21 August 2019. At that session, a report containing a range of conclusions and recommendations was adopted . The report affirmed that there was general consensus about the so-called “Guiding Principles”. For many other items, however, it remains open how to achieve a concrete result in the discussion, which has been very constructive so far. Opinions still vary widely with regard to the outcome. The potential solutions under discussion include a moratorium for killer robots and other autonomous weapons systems, a general policy recommendation and an agreement that would be binding under international law; such agreement could be a protocol that complements the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which also governs the GGE LAWS. Even the general consensus on the key fundamental issue that lethal autonomous weapons systems must be controlled by humans, who can be hold responsible for their action, in all phases of development, testing and application, is not unanimous when it comes to details.
Given this situation, the GGE Laws postponed its meeting and adopted a work program for 2020 and 2021. The next (6th) CCW Review Conference will take place in autumn 2021. It is planned to have a result ready for signing by then. Many observers, especially from the field of NGOs, such as the platform “Stop Killer Robots”, regard this as an unacceptable delay in one of the most dramatic fields of today’s armament race in cyberspace. Increasing criticism is being voiced within the GGE LAWS of the internal consensus procedure, which allows those states that develop autonomous weapons systems to sabotage progress in the negotiations with their veto. This applies in particular to the USA and Russia. 29 states have advocated an immediate ban on killer robots.
In its coalition agreement, the German government has spoken out in favour of banning fully autonomous weapons systems. Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has advocated an international commitment to effective human control of such systems. At the negotiations in Geneva, however, Germany has not yet taken any initiative. The critics of the GGE LAWS are also considering creating a completely new negotiating framework similar, for example, to that of the negotiations that led to a ban on anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions.