This week in Geneva, states are meeting to discuss the issue of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems under the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. In the context of increasing autonomy in weapons systems and the fast pace of technological development, states must urgently draw a line, through new international law, to ensure that meaningful human control is retained in the use of force.

This new discussion paper from Article 36 considers how national level weapon review processes could provide one implementation mechanism for such an international legal commitment to ensure adequate human control over weapons systems.

A new legal instrument should provide guidance as to how new weapons, means or methods of warfare ought to be assessed in order to ensure that they allow for the necessary human control. Through such an approach, a legal instrument could be established that is broad enough, and flexible enough, to be effective in the context of diverse future scenarios.

Under a future international instrument on autonomous weapons, evaluations will need to be made of diverse technologies to ensure that they allow a sufficient level of human control. Despite recognised challenges, national level weapon review processes will be important to the implementation of any ‘future orientated’ international legal commitment. In the development of such a legal commitment, the role and parameters of the weapon review process should be considered and elaborated.

National weapon review processes alone will certainly not be a sufficient mechanism for addressing the challenges presented by growing autonomy – however, a specific additional legal obligation to ensure human control will be necessary in order to require national weapon review processes to evaluate new weapons, means and methods of warfare effectively.

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Autonomous weapon systems: Evaluating the capacity for ‘meaningful human control’ in weapon review processes

Discussion paper
November 2017

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