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Possibilities of UN Banning Killer Robots Looking Growingly Remote

Representatives from about 80 countries have been meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems since 2014

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots warns chances of achieving a U.N. treaty banning the development, production and use of fully autonomous lethal weapons, also known as killer robots, are looking increasingly remote. Experts from some 80 countries are attending a weeklong meeting to discuss the prospect of negotiating an international treaty. Representatives from about 80 countries have been meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems since 2014.

They have to decide by November to begin negotiations on a new treaty to regulate killer robots. Nobel peace laureate Jody Williams says Russia has been in the forefront of a group of countries, including the United States and Australia, trying to block movement in this direction. At the opening session, she tells VOA that Russia argued for drastically limiting discussions on the need for meaningful human control over lethal autonomous weapons.

“It is very unlikely as they finish up this year that there will be a mandate to meaningfully deal with meaningful human control, which is fundamental in our view to how you deploy such systems,” Williams said. “There would be no utility in continuing to come here and hear the same blah, blah, blah over and over again.”

UN, robots
Peter Asaro, left, of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, and Jody Williams of the Nobel Women’s Initiative speak to reporters at a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Aug. 27, 2018. VOA

Williams said the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots may have to resort to civil activism to get an accord banning killer robots. She said such tactics successfully achieved international treaties banning land mines and cluster munitions outside the United Nations framework.

But for now, the activists are not giving up on persuading U.N. member countries to take the right course. They said delegating life-and death decisions to machines crosses what they call a moral red line and should not be allowed to happen.

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They said they have strong support for their stance from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. In a statement to delegates attending the meeting, he warned of the dangers of giving machines the power and discretion to take lives without human involvement.

He called this morally repugnant and politically unacceptable. He said these weapons should be prohibited by international law. (VOA)

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