At UN talks UK snubs call for meaningful human control over weapons systems

MPs, scientists and campaigners to call on UK to explain policy on autonomous weapons

Terrace Dining Room A, Palace of Westminster, 7pm, Wednesday 20th April 2016

Last week at the UN in Geneva, around 80 countries, including all major weapons-producing nations, gathered to discuss autonomous weapons systems. Such weapons would, on their own, be able to select and fire upon targets without human involvement. Campaigners, UN Special Rapporteurs and a growing number of states have called for a ban on such weapons. Many more have recognised the requirement for meaningful human control over the operation of weapons systems in every attack. The UK says it will ensure human control over weapons, but has stopped short of embracing the call for meaningful human control.

At this third meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, the UK maintained its line of rejecting the need for any international rules on autonomous weapons. At the same time, the UK provided no information to delegates at the UN about its existing military projects in relation to autonomy in weapons systems, including BAE Systems’ autonomous combat aircraft, Taranis. Rather than share information on the way in which it will ensure the necessary human control over these weapons systems, the UK sought to define ‘Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems’ as weapons with ‘higher level intent.’ Such an approach leaves the door open to the development of weapons that might lack the necessary human control on which international humanitarian law is based.

This panel discussion and reception in Parliament will discuss the problems posed by autonomous weapons, the importance of human control and provide recommendations to the UK government ahead of the key 5-yearly UN meeting on conventional weapons scheduled for December. The speakers will be:

Nia Griffith MP, Chair of the APPG on Weapons and Protection of Civilians

Professor Noel Sharkey, Sheffield, leading AI and robotics scientist and chief judge on the forthcoming BBC Series ‘Robot Wars’

Professor Lucy Suchman, Lancaster, leading researcher on human-computer interaction and contemporary warfighting

Associate Professor Denise Garcia, Northeastern, leading researcher on arms control agreements and global security

Thomas Nash, Director of Article 36, UK weapons monitoring organisation

Many of the world’s leading experts on autonomous weapons will also be present at the event and officials from the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence have been invited.

Posted in: Press releases,