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A call to ban killer robots

23 January 2019 12:56 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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he latest challenge to man’s existence comes in the form of Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWS) also referred to as killer robots,  which attack the target without human assistance. Critics say that the use of LAWs is a blatant disregard and disrespect of international law. They reason that algorithmic programming cannot achieve ethical, moral and discriminate decision making. LAWs may operate in the air, on land, on water, under water or in space. So far 28 states have sought to prohibit autonomous weapons. However, Sri Lanka is not one of them. Yet, at the Conference to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) Sri Lanka has shown, its displeasure over the use of killer robots and the need to take action against their development. In 2016, Sri Lanka stated that national laws and policy were insufficient to stop autonomous weapons. In 2017 Sri Lanka asserted the need for pre-emptive action against the development of LAWS. Against this backdrop a book launch organised by the Sri Lanka Campaign to Stop Killer Robots was held. The event was graced by Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, Former UN Under Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs and Ravinatha P. Ariyasinghe, Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The book that was launched mainly contains the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), in English, Sinhala and Tamil. 

 

Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala (third from left) speaking at the book launch organised by the Sri Lanka Campaign to Stop Killer Robots  Pics by Nimal Siri Edirisighe


DURABLE SECURITY RESTS ON A TRIPOD

Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, Former UN Under Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs, stressed that national security and human security should be distinguished. “My experience working in international affairs at the UN and elsewhere is that the UN itself and many of the international actors see national security as being associated with defense of the State from external threats, both armed and unarmed. The focus of human security is within the country and it is to protect individuals,” he said. However, he pointed out that security of the State did not automatically result in the security of the people. “History shows us that in dictatorship, secure States could have very insecure people.”
He added that durable security rested on a tripod of physical security, economic development and human rights. “As Kofi Anan said, ‘We will not enjoy development, without security. We will not enjoy security, without development. And we will not enjoy either, without respect for human rights.”

 

"Critics say that the use of LAWs is a blatant disregard and disrespect of international law"

"So far 28 states have sought to prohibit autonomous weapons"


WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

Speaking about the application of artificial intelligence in the development of weapons or LAWs he said that they were weapons of mass destruction. “Passage of history has shown us that the pursuit of war has undergone changes. New weapons are being used. We have around 28 countries who have pledged to ban these weapons. Sri Lanka, I am afraid is not one of them,” he said. 


ESCALATE THE PACE OF WAR FARE

He said that killer robots escalate the pace of war fare. “It leads to asymmetric warfare resulting in technological haves and have nots. These robotic weapons can be used by Non-State armed groups including terrorists. This will undermine existing laws and regulations,” he said. 
Another issue he raised was that the use of LAWs eliminates the proportionality aspect in the use of arms. 


Need for GGE

Ravinatha P. Ariyasinghe, Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Sri Lanka was very committed in the campaign to stop killer robots. “One of the recommendations which was taken to the CCW session Sri Lanka chaired, was the need for a  Group of Governmental Experts (GGE). This recommendation was made after lengthy discussions with key players.  While there are States which are open about their positions, there are others which conceal their positions. One place where civil society is not always welcome by some countries which normally embrace civil societies is disarmament,” he said. 
“Sri Lanka is very committed to this process. But sitting where we are, hearing all sides of this argument, one thing I realised was that how well positioned Sri Lanka is to play a role in international affairs if it was ready to lead from the middle. Far too often in recent times either we are taken for granted or otherwise we corner ourselves to become irrelevant. But if we choose to lead from the middle, Sri Lanka’s value and recognition in whatever field in the international affairs and multilateralism is very ripe and alive. We can’t do this unless we carry everyone along,” he said stressing on the need for a collective effort to ban killer robots. 

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