Yesterday, the UN General Assembly’s First Committee (Disarmament) adopted the first-ever resolution on autonomous weapons (so-called ‘killer robots’ or LAWS), underlining the ‘urgent need for the international community to address the challenges and concerns raised by autonomous weapons systems’. After 10 years of international discussions, in a context of rapid technological developments, this vote represents a major step forward. And it paves the way for the negotiation of a new international norm on autonomous weapons. This was announced in a statement by the Italian Peace and Disarmament Network, part of the Stop Killer Robots campaign.

Last month,” the note recalls, “the UN Secretary-General and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a historic call to ‘urgently establish new international rules on autonomous weapons systems to protect humanity’ by 2026. While stopping short of calling for negotiations, this resolution builds confidence in an international regulatory pathway and signals the need for urgent political action to address the grave risks posed by autonomous weapons systems.

Resolution L56 was introduced by Austria and co-sponsored by a diverse group of interregional States, including Italy. The text recognises ‘the rapid development of new and emerging technologies’ and refers to the ‘serious challenges and concerns that new technological applications in the military domain, including those related to artificial intelligence and autonomy in weapon systems, also raise from humanitarian, legal, security, technological and ethical perspectives’. It also expresses concern about “the possible negative consequences and impact of autonomous weapon systems on global security and regional and international stability, including the risk of an arms race, the lowering of the conflict threshold and proliferation, including to non-state actors”.