Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), meeting Nov. 21–23 in Geneva, failed to advance consideration of lethal autonomous weapons systems to a higher level of international discussion, mainly due to opposition from Russia and a few other countries. For the past several years, a group of governmental experts, largely drawn from CCW signatory states’ delegations, has been considering the implications of such weapons, particularly with respect to their potential violations of the laws of war and international humanitarian law. The experts group has also weighed the possibility of negotiating within the CCW framework a binding prohibition on the development and use of fully autonomous weapons.
Several dozen states, along with nongovernmental organizations, have sought negotiations on a ban on so-called killer robots, but face opposition from countries such as Israel, Russia, and the United States. (See ACT, September 2018.) Ban advocates had hoped that the Geneva talks would open the way for negotiations this year, but Russia blocked the required consensus. Instead, delegates decided that the experts group will meet this year for further discussions. Ban supporters, expressing disappointment, said they will continue working within the CCW while seeking other options. “Russia demonstrated conclusively that the CCW is unlikely to make any meaningful progress on this issue,” said Stephen Goose of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.—MICHAEL KLARE