ICRC: “Autonomous weapons represent an urgent humanitarian priority today”
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes the Group of Governmental Experts' resumption of work and the efforts of the returning Chair, Ambassador Flávio S. Damico of Brazil, to facilitate the Group in discharging its mandate.
Various recent initiatives show increasing international attention to addressing the serious concerns raised by autonomous weapon systems, including the joint statement by 70 States at the UN General Assembly in October 2022, the summit on Responsible Artificial Intelligence in the Military Domain, co-hosted last month by the Netherlands and the Republic of Korea, and the conference on autonomous weapons to be convened by Luxembourg in April 2023.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee has begun its work on new and emerging technologies in the military domain.
In particular, the ICRC welcomes the leadership shown by Latin American and Caribbean States in the adoption of a communiqué at the Regional Conference on the Social and Humanitarian Impact of Autonomous Weapons in Costa Rica, less than two weeks ago.
In the communiqué, more than thirty States, including some not yet party to the CCW, collectively acknowledged the need for "... the urgent negotiation of an international legally-binding instrument, with prohibitions and regulations with regard to autonomy in weapons systems ...".
At that conference, the ICRC president emphasized that the concerns raised by autonomous weapons "represent an urgent humanitarian priority today", given the trajectory of weapons development and use in recent and current armed conflicts.
While the ICRC regrets that the conclusions and recommendations of the 2022 GGE did not reflect the seriousness of the humanitarian concerns raised by autonomous weapons, we are heartened by the constructive international tone set for 2023.
As we have heard in statements today, and in previous GGE meetings, many States around the world are already committed to the urgent adoption of new international legally-binding rules on autonomous weapons, and others remain open to an effective legal response. There are increasingly overlapping proposals from States, including new proposals shared at this meeting, on how to do this in practice through the articulation of specific prohibitions and restrictions.
The ICRC once again urges High Contracting Parties to the CCW to honour their commitments to the progressive development of international humanitarian law.
States must act now, to prohibit unpredictable autonomous weapons, and autonomous weapons designed or used to apply force against persons, and to impose strict international legal restrictions on the development and use of all other autonomous weapons. The ICRC stands ready to support all States in this important work, this week and in the months ahead.