Delegate Name: Tyler Ragan
Committee: Disarmament & International Security Committee
Topic: Autonomous Weapon Systems
The autonomous weapon is not a new concept, and certainly not a foreign one to many states across the world. It comes in many different shapes and forms, from the simple landmine to the most complex aerial drone. It kills blindly, with disregard to its target and the damage that it causes. The most popular image of the autonomous weapon is the aerial drone, a fully autonomous version of which first took the life of a human target in Libya in 2020. Though it is quite limited in use, it is no less serious of a threat than more widely used weaponry. It is the lesser thought of land mine however which poses the most grave threat in today’s world. In 2019, 2,170 were killed and 3,357 were injured by landmines across the globe, an appalling 80% of which were civilians. The topic of the autonomous weapon is broad, however it is necessary to develop a comprehensive resolution to curb the dangers of them in order to prevent autonomous drones, missiles, sentries, and other such weaponry becoming as ubiquitous as the land mine which destroys the lives of so many each year. France is a firm believer that warfare is best left to those with a conscience, not that which takes human life without the ability to understand the consequences of its actions. It is also important to make the distinction between lethal weapons and non-lethal combat support systems. Though AI may be responsible for the targeting of a drone, it is the process of confirming an attack which must be limited to human action. Ultimately, it is taking the life of another which only a human can bear responsibility for, not the programmed brain of a machine.
France is no stranger to the threat that autonomous weapons pose, mines still litter the battlegrounds of the first and second world wars, and autonomous drones similar to those used in Libya could eventually pose a threat to French forces combating extremist groups in Africa and the Middle East. In respect to land mines, France is a signatory to and firm supporter of the 1997 Ottawa Convention. In keeping up with the convention, France completed destruction of land mine stocks in 1999, and finished clearing mines under its jurisdiction in 2008. This policy of turning away from the use of autonomous weapons does not only apply to land mines though, as France is a party to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the 11 principles on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems of which France is also a supporter of. Official French policy on lethal autonomous weapons seeks to prevent their use and acquisition, but does not completely prohibit research into autonomous weapons in order to combat their spread to terrorist groups, and develop a solution to effectively combat their use.
France seeks a resolution which is guided by the 11 principles on lethal autonomous weapons laid out in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which seeks to at the very least regulate autonomous weapons to the point where there are numerous safety measures in place to prevent civilian casualties and ensure compliance with humanitarian law. France would support a resolution similar to the 1997 Ottawa Convention applied to a larger scale of autonomous weaponry, however, if support fails to materialize for such a solution would not be opposed to heavy regulation in the place of prohibition. The overarching concern of France is that autonomous weaponry is not used against civilians, and believes that the best way to ensure that is for autonomous weaponry to be very limited in application. France looks forward to working with like minded states such as China and Pakistan which have in the past expressed a desire to ban fully autonomous weapons and hopes to find a comprehensive solution to the topic. As Cicero said, “Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error.” Let us not be the idiot then in letting the killer drone become the new land mine which makes no distinction between combatant and civilian. Human life must rest in the hands of humans, not machines.