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CCW HCP – Agenda Item 7: 2022 Lethal Autonomous Weapons Group of Governmental Experts Report
November 18, 2022

Agenda Item 7: 2022 Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWS) Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) Report

Meeting of High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

Statement by Deputy Legal Adviser Joshua Dorosin, Head of the U.S. Delegation to the Annual Meeting of High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

November 16, 2022

Thank you, Mr. President. At the outset, we want to express our deep appreciation to Ambassador Damico of Brazil for his skilled Chairmanship of the Group of Governmental Experts and welcome his willingness to continue as Chair in 2023. Under his capable leadership, the GGE was able to achieve consensus on a substantive report during the July meeting.

As noted in our general statement, we were disappointed that we were unable to gain consensus on a number of additional substantive elements that were proposed and seriously evaluated by the GGE this year. At the same time, 2022 gives us reason to be optimistic about the possibilities of 2023 – as summarized in paragraph 17 of the report, the GGE received ten proposals by the end of the second session. These include a proposal for a legally binding Protocol VI, proposals for non-binding instruments, and discussion papers that continue to develop our collective understanding of the application of existing IHL to LAWS. And it is also important to note that the quality of the technical discussions in the July session was high, and there is no question that it will be important to maintain that level of quality as we intensify our efforts next year.

Given the number and breadth of proposals that have been submitted, our delegation fully supports the GGE’s recommended mandate for 2023 for the Group to “intensify the consideration of proposals and elaborate, by consensus, possible measures … and other options related to the normative and operational framework” on LAWS. The GGE must be given time to adequately consider the proposals that are now before it, as the Group was unable to devote sufficient time – in part because many arrived late in the session – to assessing the proposals in 2022. For these reasons, the United States believes that the mandate should direct the GGE to meet for 20 days in 2023. Ten days, as the GGE had in 2022, is simply not enough time to do justice to the proposals.

Mr. President, we continue to believe that the joint proposal, co-sponsored by Australia, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States, represents the best path forward for the GGE to gain consensus on a substantive outcome in 2023. It is intended to transform the GGE’s past consensus work into a document that could guide State practice and seeks to progress the GGE’s work by proposing new conclusions in areas of consensus, such as conclusions reflecting the two-tier approach.

We acknowledge that many States have called for the negotiation of a legally binding instrument. However, as is evident from today’s statements, there are also many other States that believe it is premature to do so. The GGE’s work focuses on complex issues that are affected by continuing technological developments.  There are likely to be significant changes in emerging technologies in the years to come. There also continue to be divergences among States on fundamental issues.

The United States has been clear that consideration of the joint proposal does not preclude future work on a legally binding instrument. In fact, the issues addressed in the joint proposal, such as clarifying how existing IHL applies to LAWS and identifying whether there are any gaps in existing law, is work that would need to be done in preparation for negotiating a legally binding instrument.

We welcome the opportunity to engage with all delegations on any aspects of the joint proposal, and to work collaboratively within the GGE to make further progress on this important issue. Thank you.