Weapon systems still not banned – agreement is still missing

In a new round of negotiations in Geneva, it was still not possible to push through a ban on autonomous weapon systems among UN states.

After a new round of negotiations on a ban on autonomous weapon systems among member states of the UN, still no agreement could be reached. NGOs are already working on a plan B to speed up the enforcement of the ban.

Discussion about banning autonomous weapon systems since 2014

Last week there was a new round of negotiations by the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS). The government representatives were only able to agree on continuing the discussion, but not on a general ban on LAWS. To achieve this goal, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are now considering taking their call for such a ban to another international forum.

The discussion on this topic has been going on for 2014. In November government representatives met for the first time as a supposed “expert group“. exchange about it. Most recently, the UN conference last December negotiated a ban on LAWS, as Heise reported.

Both the USA and Russia do not want to join in a ban on autonomous weapon systems. They refer to voluntary norms and international humanitarian law and see them as generally less prone to errors.

Germany is also committed to a ban on autonomous weapon systems

The aim of the German federal government is to outlaw fully autonomous weapon systems. They are therefore not allowed to be developed, procured or even used. As the Federal Foreign Office reports, the federal government has to deal with considerable resistance from some UN member states. A proposal tabled jointly with other EU countries aims to mediate between camps within the UN through a “dual approach in the UN Weapons Convention”.

Countries like Argentina have already submitted a draft for a binding new protocol outlawing autonomous weapon systems. Other countries, such as Austria or Switzerland, rely more on binding standards. And then there are the USA, South Korea and Japan, who invoke existing standards of international humanitarian law.

But Germany’s will is apparently not strong enough

Marius Pletsch from the German Peace Society DFG-VK finds clear criticism of the German attitude: “In the attempt to attack Russia and other highly militarized states To keep on board, the other delegations are partly responsible for the years of deadlock in the negotiations to come to a legally binding result.

Although the outlawing of autonomous weapon systems is part of the coalition agreement of the incumbent government, according to Pletsch it does not live up to its own claim. He lacks the ambitious commitment of the German delegation for a binding ban on LAWS.

The search for alternatives

NGOs have now decided to continue the fight on another level. The “Stop Killer Robots” initiative is intended to give progressive states the opportunity to negotiate the ban on autonomous weapon systems in another forum. After the failure of the negotiations in Geneva, this alternative approach should bring about the hoped-for agreement next year.

As we have already reported elsewhere, the arms business is bloody, but it is often profitable. Trading in war has historically emerged as an opportunity to reignite the economy. Given the current outlook for the global economy, this could be one of the reasons why such a debate, where a quick agreement would be desirable, is being delayed for so long. But those who debate it are rarely the ones who end up bearing the consequences on the battlefield.


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