Regional conference on social and humanitarian impact of autonomous weapons opens in Costa Rica

Heredia, 23 February 2023. Authorities from 33 Latin American and Caribbean States, representatives of civil society and international organisations are meeting today at the Regional Conference on the Social and Humanitarian Impact of Autonomous Weapons, which will run until tomorrow, Friday 24 February, in Belén de Heredia.

The Conference is the first of its kind and is an initiative of the Government of Costa Rica, through the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Worship, in coordination with the Foundation for Peace and Democracy (FUNPADEM).

Christian Guillermet-Fernández, Minister a.i. for Foreign Affairs and Worship, who chairs the Conference, highlighted the long Costa Rican tradition in the struggle for disarmament and its role as “a moral voice in the concert of nations”.

“That is why we have called on the Latin American and Caribbean region, so that we can have a discussion on the risks posed by the development and use of these weapons from the point of view of international humanitarian law. Costa Rica has taken the step forward to make the international community aware of the risk posed by autonomous weapons,” said Guillermet.

He added that according to the rules of International Humanitarian Law it is considered fundamental that there is the intervention of a human being in the making of a decision in war or in a situation of violence.

The objective of the event is to provide a space for governmental experts from the region, as well as from observer countries, representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Organisation of American States, the United Nations, academics and civil society leaders, encouraging the exchange of knowledge among participants.

The agenda includes the presentation of key issues surrounding autonomous weapons, aspects of the humanitarian and social impact of the use of these weapons, as well as security elements and the risks of proliferation.

A joint communiqué will be adopted during this conference as a contribution of the Latin American and Caribbean region to the debate on the issue.

After this conference, it is hoped that the international debate will be revived with the aim of contributing to the progress of the negotiations taking place at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, to which Costa Rica is a party, and other relevant international fora.

Among others, José Leon Desanti, member of the Foundation for Peace and Democracy (FUNPADEM); Allegra Baiocchi, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System in Costa Rica; Ambassador Flávio Soares Damico, Special Representative of Brazil to the Conference on Disarmament; and Luis Almagro Lemes, Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) will participate in this event.

An approach to autonomous weapons. Although there is no single definition, the scientific and academic community and civilian organisations define these weapons as those that select targets and apply force without human intervention.

That is, when someone activates an autonomous weapon, they do not know exactly which people or objects they will attack, nor do they know precisely where or when the attack will occur. This is because they are activated by sensors and software that compare their programming with what they detect in the field as a possible ‘target’. For example, they could be triggered by the shape of a vehicle and that will trigger the attack For example, they could be triggered by the shape of a vehicle and that will trigger the attack.

Another definition refers to robotic weapon systems that, once activated, could select and attack targets without the need for intervention by a human operator. The important element is that the weapon would have an autonomous “choice” regarding the selection of a target and the use of lethal force.

Institutional Communication

Thursday 23 February 2023

071-2023 Regional conference on social and humanitarian impact of autonomous weapons opens in Costa Rica

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