Comments by Richard Moyes, Article 36 CCW Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons 26 July 2022
By Richard Moyes
Thank you chair, and good morning everyone,
I will make some general comments before coming to a specific proposal related question.
It feels like this week presents an important opportunity for us to have a detailed and substantive conversation about the genuine key elements of a response to the issue of autonomous weapons.
Already in the discussion we see that substantive conversation developing, and I am looking forward to that continuing through the week.
This is thanks in large part to the work done by states – from all the states that have put work into written proposals.
It is also thanks to the informal intersessional discussions that have punctuated recent months.
And those discussions should be facilitated further by consideration of the conclusions that you have drawn in the draft report.
The central paragraphs of those conclusions provide an important opportunity to discuss the central critical issues.
To recognise that for human judgement and control to be applied, operators need to understand the systems that are being used, including understanding what will trigger an engagement, including towards things they do not intend to engage— and understanding that they need to understand the context of use, by sufficiently limiting the area and the duration over which a system can operate – in order make substantive judgements under international law
And we can start to recognise that systems cannot be used in accordance with the obligations should be prohibited.
But – before we get to the substantive paragraphs we have perambulation paragraph 15 – and this paragraph caused me seem concerns.
Because paragraph 15 states that “the CCW remains the appropriate forum” for dealing with this issue.
And we can recognise that this formulation draws upon the written proposal by Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden – where they recommend a preambular part the “affirms that the CCW remains the appropriate the appropriate forum…”
And the state that this is “as affirmed in Guiding Principle k” – which was of course adopted by consensus by the group.
But this formulation does not follow the wording of Guiding Principle k – principle k states that the CCW is “an” appropriate forum.
And this is problematic.
I am concerned that before we get to the substantive paragraphs of the conclusion we may be stuck in the opening up language previously agreed by consensus
So I am wondering if this was the intention of Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden – are they proposing that we open up the guiding principles for amendment?
Or was this perhaps the product of loose drafting, that somehow slipped through the net?
I will not comment in on the merits of this change, but suffice to say I don’t think that in the time since Guiding Principle k was adopted – I don’t think the CCW’s work has merited the upgrade.
It might be very helpful for facilitating the focus on substantive matters if states in that group could make clear that they would content to remain with the previously agreed language.
And it would be interesting for us, in civil society, to hear from all of those states on this matter in order to follow up in capital if revisiting the guiding principles is really their intention in this fora.
Thank you chair.