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All nations should agree to begin international talks aimed at preventing the creation of fully autonomous robot weapons that, once activated, would select and engage targets without human intervention, said the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots today at an event at the United Nations in New York.
“Governments should never relinquish human control of targeting and attack decisions to machines,” said Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, a founding member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. “To prevent this method of warfare from ever coming into existence, nations need to start working on both national prohibitions and an international ban now.”

In recent months, fully autonomous weapons – also called “lethal autonomous robots” or “killer robots” – have gone from an obscure, little known issue, to one that is commanding the attention of many governments, international institutions, and civil society. Fully autonomous weapons do not yet exist, but several robotic systems with various degrees of autonomy and lethality are currently in use by the US, Israel, South Korea, and the UK, while other nations with high-tech militaries, such as China, and Russia, are believed to be moving toward systems that would give full combat autonomy to machines.

This year the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Professor Christof Heyns, issued a report calling on nations to institute an immediate moratorium on fully autonomous weapons. His report also suggested that a high-level panel consider the issue. At a UN Human Rights Council debate on the report on 29 May, more than two dozen countries spoke on the issue for the first time and all agreed that the prospect of fully autonomous weapons requires urgent international action.

Austria, Egypt, France, Pakistan and other nations called for international talks on fully autonomous weapons during the UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security in New York this month. France, as chair of the next meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, has been consulting to solicit support for adding fully autonomous weapons to the convention’s program of work.

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