The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for members to establish a plan that imposes “restrictions on the use of certain types of autonomous weapons” at the start of the Review Conference.
The statement from the UN chief comes after a report by the international body claiming that the first military autonomous drone attack took place in Libya in March 2020. It is not known if the lethal autonomous weapons system (LAWS) killed anyone but it marked a historic development in warfare.
“I encourage the Review Conference to agree on an ambitious plan for the future to establish restrictions on the use of certain types of autonomous weapons,” Guterres said.
UN negotiators have been discussing concerns about LAWS for the past eight years, with Guterres hoping to make progress over five days of talks.
Currently, 125 parties have signed up to the UN’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, including the US, China and Israel. However, some signatories want to expand it to cover a total ban on LAWS.
“The pace of technology is really beginning to outpace the rate of diplomatic talks,” Clare Conboy of the Stop Killer Robots organization argued, adding that the talks pose “a historic opportunity for states to take steps to safeguard humanity.”
However, progress during the negotiations might be slowed due to opposition from the United States, with President Joe Biden recently refusing to sign a binding international agreement that would regulate so-called “killer robots.” At the time, the US claimed it prefers a “non-binding code of conduct” for the time being.