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Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) – Opening Statement
September 30, 2020

Opening Statement

September 21, 2020

Thank you Mr. Chair for stepping in to lead the GGE, and let me begin by ensuring you of our delegation’s support during the upcoming meeting. We also thank Ambassador Karklins for his work, including his initiative to invite national commentaries on the guiding principles and the paper articulating commonalities from those national commentaries. Thanks to his efforts, as well as the efforts of the many delegations that prepared national commentaries, we start this meeting already with a substantial body of work to consider.

We supported the addition of the specific agenda item 5(f), but we think it is important to emphasize that all of our discussions should be guided by the task that High Contracting Parties to the CCW have given to the GGE, which is to develop consensus recommendations in relation to the clarification, consideration, and development of aspects of the normative and operational framework on emerging technologies in the area of LAWS for consideration at this year’s meeting of CCW HCPs and at the Sixth CCW Review Conference. Although this task is highlighted in agenda item 5(f), it should inform our discussions in agenda items 5(a) through 5(e) as well.

We support the flexible approach to the program of work and schedule outlined by the Chair, in line with past practice of the GGE. In particular, we agree that it makes sense to leave the substantive agenda items open and to be flexible with the time allocated to specific agenda items.

Building on the consensus language in the guiding principles, the United States, in our national commentaries, has proposed a series of substantive recommendations for the GGE to consider for adoption. We plan to highlight these when relevant to particular agenda items. But, we encourage interested delegations to review them in our national commentary and would like to provide a brief overview now of the areas where we have provided in-depth proposals.

We have proposed conclusions relating to:

1. Clarifying IHL requirements applicable to the use of emerging technologies in the area of LAWS.

2. Addressing how well established international legal principles of State and individual re-sponsibility apply to States and persons who use weapon systems with autonomous functions.

3. Good practices to help ensure accountability.

4. Good practices in human-machine interaction that can strengthen compliance with IHL.

5. Good practices for the legal review of weapons systems based on emerging technologies in the area of LAWS.

6. Examples of ways in which emerging technologies in the area of LAWS could be used to strengthen implementation of IHL, such as by reducing risks to civilians in military oper-ations.

We believe that these are all productive areas of work and each could be a useful part of the consensus recommendations for strengthening the normative and operational framework for emerging technologies in the area of LAWS. We look forward to discussing these areas and our specific proposals with other delegations, and plan to offer more specific thoughts on agenda item 5(a) in the course of today’s discussions.