September 16, 2019
 In Autonomous Weapon Systems

Country: United Kingdom
Delegate Name: Micaela Story

The very concept of autonomous weapons spands a plethora of dimensions like military, technology, legal, and ethical. With the debated history of autonomous weapons, questions about legislation and human accountability are at the top of the list. For starters, the exact criteria and classification of autonomous weapons remains inconclusive, as well as the terms for accountability. Naturally, it has been questioned whether the UN has any right to regulate autonomous weapons amongst countries. One of the places this was raised and the issue of autonomous weapons has been discussed thoroughly and fiercely was the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) forum. Several countries including the U.K. were heavily involved in the convention where ambassadors as well as civilians offered their testimony on the subject and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) was utilized. As more and more countries stack their defense programs and perform military tests, agreement and legislation regarding autonomous weapon systems have never been more important.

As one of the world’s top weapons suppliers and owner of a vast military arsenal, the U.K. has a vested interest in autonomous weapons and the security of the world. The U.K. believes any current ban on use and development of lethal autonomous weapons is infringement and unnecessary, on the grounds that there is no current situation warranting such a restriction. A preemptive ban not only aims to solve a problem that does not yet exist, but it also restrains the ability to explore other military technologies and tactics that may be gained from the use of artificial intelligence. Improved artificial intelligence systems could potentially lead to higher weapon accuracy and fewer civilian casualties. The U.K. also believes the existing International Humanitarian Law is sufficient regulation regarding autonomous weapons. To repeat the words of the Ministry of Defense, “The U.K. does not possess fully autonomous weapon systems and has no intention of developing them. Such systems are not yet in existence and are not likely to be for many years, if at all.” The MoD has also announced a new allocation of funds that will allow for autonomous vehicles and drones to be explored for military use. U.K. weapons will always be under human control but any ban on LAWs is counterproductive.

The U.K. is hopeful that the rights and innovations of independent countries will be upheld at this conference and that the world will not fall victim to the doomsday mentality that surrounds the idea of autonomous weapon systems. Although the U.K. supports an across the board definition of autonomous weapons systems consistent with that of the MoD, the stance of the U.K is that any ban of such technology is premature, and limits the technological capability of the world. The U.K. feels similarly to the U.S., the Russian Federation, Australia, and Israel in that the prohibition of artificial intelligence technologies should be opposed to protect the freedom and development of nations.

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